A House Democrat from Connecticut said Tuesday that Sen. Joe Lieberman should be recalled from office over his opposition to the Senate health care bill.
"No individual should hold health care hostage, including Joe Lieberman, and I'll say it flat out, I think he ought to be recalled," Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) told POLITICO.
Connecticut has no recall law for state officials, and the Constitution does not authorize states to recall members of Congress since each house has the authority to police its own members. DeLauro acknowledged that she didn’t know “what the Connecticut process is because I never found myself in this position — but I think it is unconscionable that he would hold up health care.”
She said that millions of people die because they lack health insurance.
DeLauro’s comments speak to concerns running through Democratic circles in Connecticut and in Washington after Lieberman exerted his will on Democratic leaders and the White House, saying he would join a GOP filibuster if the bill included either a public insurance option or a provision allowing people aged 55-64 to buy into Medicare.
Now it appears that the leaders will drop those plans to win the support of Lieberman and the rest of the Democratic caucus.
“There’s huge concern that borders on frustration,” Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.) said of Lieberman’s position.
“It goes beyond frustration in Connecticut in terms of the way people feel,” Larson said. “I have a great deal of respect and I have long admired Joe Lieberman. This goes against the grain of most of what he’s fought for and stood for all of his life. It’s thoroughly frustrating and disappointing for so many of us.”
Lieberman spokesman Marshall Wittmann denied that the senator was trying to block health care legislation.
“The truth is that Sen. Lieberman is seeking to pass a health care bill as soon as possible that will provide coverage to millions of Americans who lack health insurance.”
Lieberman told reporters Tuesday that he’s been working to get a bill through the Senate that enjoys majority support in the public.
In a statement, Lieberman denied flip-flopping on the Medicare buy-in proposal, saying that his support for the plan during his campaign for vice president in 2000 came at a time when the national debt was less than half what it is now – and when Medicare was not on the cusp of going broke and when there was no “viable” proposal like the one being considered on the floor.
He said comments he made to the Connecticut Post in September endorsing the idea were “before we had a bill for consideration on the Senate floor that contains extensive health insurance reforms, including limiting how much more insurance companies could charge individuals based on age and providing subsidies that would specifically help people between the ages of 55 and 65 to afford health insurance.”
He added: “I look forward to passing a bill that will give the American people genuine health care reform without impeding our recovery from the current recession or adding to our exploding national debt.”
Sen. Kent Conrad of North Dakota, a Democratic centrist, said Lieberman has actually made it easier to reach a deal on the health care bill.
"In a curious way, it may make it more possible to get something done," Conrad said of Lieberman’s position. "Because he wasn't the only one with these concerns, it's very clear - he vocalized concerns many were having."
Lieberman's home-state colleague, Democratic Sen. Chris Dodd, said the frustration arose mostly out of support for the public option back in Connecticut.
Asked about the anger directed at Lieberman, Dodd said: "It's just people's frustration for getting a bill done and strong support for a public option."