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December 15, 2009 / J. Shaw

Lieberman: The Fallout


The question is inescapable: by going on national television and threatening to join Republicans to defeat President Obama’s top domestic priority, did Senator Joseph I. Lieberman actually save the Democrats’ big health care bill?

There is no evidence that Mr. Lieberman’s role was scripted. His television comments on Sunday clearly surprised the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada. The White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, and other top officials rushed to the Capitol for a meeting.

And yet when Democrats emerged from a tense, 90-minute huddle behind closed doors on Monday night, they seemed more determined than ever to pass the health care legislation. Some expressed confidence that it could still be adopted by Christmas.

A sentiment among some lawmakers present seemed to be that if they were intent on not letting Republicans defeat the health care legislation, they certainly were not going to let it fail at the hands of Mr. Lieberman, the Connecticut independent whom many Democrats regard as a traitor.

On some level, Mr. Lieberman appears to accomplish a goal that has eluded party leaders for months: settling a sharp dispute between liberal and centrist Democrats over whether to create a government-run health insurance plan, or public option.



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