Leadership, Lieberman Deny He Has Dropped His Filibuster Threat

03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Sam Stein Senior Politics Editor, The Huffington Post

Democratic leadership and Senator Joseph Lieberman's office are both denying a report that the Connecticut Independent had pledged that he would not obstruct the passage of health care reform by backing a Republican-led filibuster.

"The Leader is speaking with Sen. Lieberman and all members of his caucus," a leadership aide told the Huffington Post. "To say that there is some 'understanding' about votes at the end of this process is preposterous."

"If you believe this story is true, you will also believe that I am replacing A-Rod in game six of the series," Lieberman's spokesman, Marshall Wittman told ABC's Jon Karl.

Speaking the morning after The Hill reported that Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Lieberman had reached a "private understanding" on the procedural process of passing health care reform, the dual disavowals will undoubtedly depress Democrats.

Health care strategists insisted on Monday night that they thought The Hill story, which cited "two sources briefed on the matter," seemed bunk to begin with. At the very least, they stressed, it was a bad strategy for pushing Lieberman's hand.

"It was a bad move," said on Democratic strategist. "Even if there was some kind of promise made, I would've kept my mouth shut. Saying he told you that just encourages him to deny it."

Still, not everyone was sour on the prospects of getting Lieberman to drop his threat of filibustering a bill with a public option. A Democrat close to the senator -- who spoke only on condition of anonymity -- said that the thrust of Wittman's pushback and the implications of The Hill's story might not, in the end, be entirely contradictory.

"My sense of it is he is using his leverage to try and make the bill as fiscally sound as possible. I also tend to think that there are a bunch of moderates who feel the same exact way he does but who can't say it publicly for risk of being savaged," the source said.

"I don't know," how he will end up voting. "I don't think he knows yet. If you knew that ahead of time he would have no leverage. If you are trying to influence a process and you are using the leverage of your vote and then say 'I'm giving away my vote and am going to stamp my feet,' then you have lost your leverage."

"They are casting him in these soap operatic terms of betrayal and self aggrandizement," the source concluded. "But this stuff happens all the time on the hill. Sometimes it plays out publicly and sometimes it plays out privately but it is part of the legislative process."