03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

A Bridge Too Far

I am a team player. I believe in compromise and negotiation, and have always been okay with taking half a loaf or even a quarter at times. I have never believed in making the perfect the enemy of the good. And as an aging diabetic, a small businessman with skyrocketing health care costs, and a veteran of the Clinton health care war room and 30 years of other health care fights, I have wanted a health care reform bill badly, worse than I have ever wanted any piece of legislation in my life.

But there does sometimes come a bridge too far.

When Joe Lieberman turned his back on a compromise that he has been strongly and publicly supporting for at least 9 years, and one that he signed off on in private last week, and added that he would not negotiate on anything, period, this Senate health care bill got too heavy to carry. When the entire progressive core of Senators folded up like a cheap suit in response, insult was piled on to injury.

I understand all the reasons the White House and Harry Reid don't want to go to reconciliation at this late date, and have been inclined to support them on that up until now. But at this point I think House progressives simply need to say hell no to this deal. If Lieberman was willing to negotiate at all, I would be inclined to try to negotiate in good faith, but with him saying taking it or leave it, I say progressives should leave it.

You know, Olympia Snowe has been saying we should just wait for another month or two, give ourselves all a little time to keep thinking and talking about this bill. It is an absurd position, since she has been thinking and talking about this bill for a year now. But I'm starting to agree with her. Maybe we need to take some extra time, slow the process down until the White House and the Senate are willing to take progressives' points of view into consideration. Along with getting rolled on the public option, this Senate bill is worse than the House bill on the Medicaid numbers, affordability, the anti-trust exemption for insurers, the financing (taxing middle class health care benefits rather than the wealthy), and the structure and rate of eligibility expansion for the exchanges. Perhaps if all or most of that were fixed, maybe then this bill would be more acceptable. But as it is, it is a very heavy load for progressives to stomach.

Look, as disappointing as this, there is still quite of good in the bill, too. It expands Medicaid coverage for people above the poverty line, expands S-CHIP coverage dramatically, still has some good tough insurance regulation and investments in other important health related programs. But progressives need to push back right now, and demand something better. There are two Houses of Congress and the House needs to assert itself right now. And I certainly hope that when all this gets done, Lieberman gets stripped of his committee assignments, and a hold is placed on every single thing he wants for the rest of his tenure in the Senate.