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Healthcare holdouts: Joe Lieberman won't budge on public option

Sen. Joe Lieberman, an Independent who caucuses with Democrats, has been a key vote on important bills. He's been unwavering so far in his opposition to including any kind of public option in the healthcare reform bill.

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“We must remain vigilant about protecting and extending the solvency of the program, which is now in a perilous financial condition,” he says.

Lieberman and Sen. Susan Collins (R) of Maine are cosponsoring a bipartisan package of amendments that mandate more transparency for insurers and healthcare providers and to rein in costs.

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"All too much of the Senate debate of healthcare reform has been divided along partisan lines," said Lieberman on Dec. 4. "This bipartisan amendment package will strengthen healthcare reform, improve patient care, encourage consumer choice, create a more efficient healthcare delivery system, and contain the increasing costs of healthcare."

Facing liberal anger

Meanwhile, critics are stepping up vigils and protests at his home and office. Liberal bloggers dub him a stooge for the insurance industry for opposing a public option, citing the $1 million-plus in campaign contributions he has received from the industry since 1990.

(Lieberman ranks No. 11 in the Senate over that time period as a recipient of campaign funds from the industry, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. For the 2010 election cycle, however, he has received just $5,500 from the industry, ranking him at No. 64. He is not up for reelection until 2012.)

“What inducements Senator Reid can use to unstick Lieberman from his implacable opposition to the public option in any form, I don’t know,” says Ross Baker, a political scientist at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J. “What Reid could do is so conceal a public option that it didn’t look like a public option. Reid’s genius is packaging legislation … making it palatable to people who otherwise would gag on it. That’s his strength.”

See also:

Mary Landrieu likes her $300 million

Blanche Lincoln wants to focus on jobs

Ben Nelson says abortion funds means 'no' vote

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