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David Sirota

David Sirota

Posted: September 19, 2006 10:36 AM

CUP OF JOE: Skipping 90% of Medicare Votes to Pocket California Cash


This Friday is National Donut Hole Day - the day where the average Medicare recipient is cut off from prescription drug coverage thanks to the "donut hole" coverage gap Congress left in President Bush's Medicare Part D bill. Sadly, when legislation was brought forward to close the donut hole in 2003, it lost on a very close vote. And as today's Cup of Joe shows, while Sen. Joe Lieberman issued a river of press releases promising to do whatever it would take to fix the Medicare bill, he skipped almost every single U.S. Senate vote on the bill - including the vote on the amendment to close the donut hole. Worse, the Hartford Courant reported that he skipped these votes to go raise campaign cash in California. Apparently, the $6,000 per week in health industry campaign contributions Lieberman has pocketed every week for the last six years wasn't enough - he needed to skip almost every vote on the most sweeping health care legislation in 4 decades to pad his campaign coffers some more.

Perhaps most odious in all of this was Lieberman's attempt to fool reporters and the public into thinking he actually attended key Medicare votes. As today's Cup of Joe notes, Lieberman issued a press release claiming to have voted against final passage of the Medicare bill. In fact, he skipped that vote.

But then, this is the kind of dishonesty we all have grown to expect from Lieberman. Just yesterday, for instance, he claimed he helped kill health care reform in the 1990s not because he was the #2 recipient of health industry cash at the time, but because he was worried about the impact on small businesses' ability to provide health care. Of course, he never explained why, if that was really his reason, the poison pill legislation that he used to kill health reform was one that major newspapers reported would have specifically raised taxes on small business health benefits.

Remember, folks - Lieberman didn't just skip most of the Medicare debate while issuing press releases feigning outrage. He has skipped key votes on the most pressing issues of the day. As an example, consider the fact that he has skipped half of all the U.S. Senate's votes on Iraq since the war began - skipping such votes even when he is in Washington. He also skipped a tie-breaking vote that would have brought more homeland security money back to Connecticut's most vulnerable urban areas. Where was he for that one? He holding a granstanding press conference to congratulate himself for supposedly bringing money back to Connecticut, even though he was missing a key vote to bring money back to Connecticut, even though under his watch the state has plummeted to 49th in terms of its rate of federal investment.

In all, he's skipped more than 300 Senate votes in just three and a half years, giving him one of the Senate's worst attendance records in the last three Congresses. This, even though his original run for the U.S. Senate was based almost exclusively on his attacks on opponent Sen. Lowell Weicker (R) for missing the same amount of votes in 7 years.

For many career politicians, there comes a time when it becomes impossible to hide the contradictions, distortions, and embarrassments of one's record. The evidence just becomes too overwhelming that the career politician will say or do absolutely anything in order to hold onto his job. Usually, this is when the career politician's career ends. With the Lieberman campaign now regularly contradicting itself and being increasingly ridiculed by Connecticut's news media (see here and here for some recent examples), it's pretty obvious that the political Grim Reaper is coming for ol' Joe. Frankly, it's long overdue.

(DISCLOSURE: I have long been a volunteer supporter of Ned Lamont's candidacy and written extensively about the race. As of Labor Day, I am officially working with the Lamont for Senate campaign on research. The writing on this blog is my own, and not the official work I do for the Lamont campaign.)