Reid faces "push back" on Lieberman remark


Last month, Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut threw a monkey wrench into Majority Leader Harry Reid's effort to nurture an emerging compromise on health care reform when he declared on national television that he did not like it and might help block it.

The idea was to allow people as young as 55 to buy into Medicare coverage. But Lieberman, whose vote was crucial to the deal, said on "Face the Nation" he would have "a hard time" supporting it.

In an upcoming New York Times article, reporter Adam Nagourney reports that Reid was infuriated with Lieberman and told associates that the Connecticut senator "double-crossed" him on health care.

"Let's not do what he wants. Let the bill just go down," Reid is quoted as saying at the time. After conferring with White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, Reid ended up abandoning the compromise.

It doesn't end there. According to a report in Politico today, Lieberman, a Democrat-turned-independent who still caucuses with the Dems, now "is pushing back hard" against Reid.

Politico said Lieberman produced a private letter he wrote Reid laying out his problem with the compromise before he went on TV.

What the letter says, what it means and how it was received is a subject of debate as the insiders are replaying the hectic weeks from last month in which Reid strived to put together a bill that could get 60 votes to pass.

Lieberman adviser Marshall Wittman told Politico the senator "made it crystal clear" to Reid the Medicare plan was a deal killer, and didn't believe Reid would call him a double-crosser. Reid's office did not comment.

UPDATE (at 1:15 p.m.)

Reid and Lieberman put out statements this afternoon that appeared to have the intent of clearing the air.

Reid's office did not respond to a question about this statement but it seemed he was backing away from calling Lieberman a double-crosser.

From Reid: “Senator Lieberman and I have a very open and honest working relationship. On issues ranging from foreign policy to health care, even when we disagree, he has always been straight forward with me.”

A short while later, Lieberman said: “I appreciate Senator Reid’s statement in response to the comments attributed to him in the New York Times Magazine. As Senator Reid indicated in his statement, he believes, as do I, that we have always been honest with each other and any suggestion otherwise is simply false and contrary to the truth.”

Liberal bloggers long have accused Reid of being too nice to Lieberman, who actively supported Republican Sen. John McCain for president and famously said in a speech at the 2008 GOP national convention that Obama was not ready to be president.

But others have argued Reid's dealing with Lieberman have been based in part on realpolitik -- he needs the independent to get to the all-important 60 votes, and on most issues the arrangement works.