Stop the presses!
Call Richard Blumenthal!
Lieberman back in the Faction in a big, big way.
From this afternoon's Congress Daily ...
Lieberman 'Listening And Learning' About Private Accounts
Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., is undecided about the concept of using payroll taxes to fund private Social Security accounts, bringing to three the known number of Senate Democrats who have yet to publicly rule out the idea. President Bush has made the accounts the centerpiece of his domestic agenda. But other than Rep. Allen Boyd of Florida, no congressional Democrats have formally signed on. While Lieberman has concerns about the idea, he is continuing to study it while hoping for more details on Social Security from the president, a Lieberman aide said today. "He's still in a listening and learning stage and is keeping an open mind, but he does have concerns about private accounts as carve-outs that would potentially undermine the guaranteed minimum benefit and worsen our fiscal health and debt load," a Lieberman aide said today.
It seems like only 2002 when Joe was saying
We understand Social Security's economic value and appreciate its moral value, and that we won't let it be diluted, dismantled or dissolved ... Simply put, Social Security privatization would take away the safety from the safety net, and turn the idea of a rainy day fund into a sink or swim proposition. If you don't choose wisely, you lose badly. And the government's response to bad luck would be to say, "tough luck."
That's what's so complicated about the whole moral values thing, at least as some folks practice <$Ad$> it. You can appreciate the moral value of something, but still want to learn more about phasing it out.
Maybe we can hear from all the Connecticut Dems who want their Senator to throw a vital lifeline to the forces of phase-out just as they're sinking in the waves.
Now, is this a flip-flop? Or is this where Lieberman's been throughout? I spoke to a Lieberman aide this afternoon and this person told me that "the senator hasn't changed his position, that he has serious concerns about private savings accounts that would jeopardize Social Security. But he remains open-minded about reforms that would strengthen the program."
That may be true. The truth is that Lieberman's statements over the last two months have been enough in the grey area that that may be right. But to me, at least, the issue isn't whether he's changed his position, it's what his position is right now.
Lieberman fans -- a group in which I have sometimes classed myself -- might tell you that Joe's just dancing now. And at the end of the day, he'll do the right thing, though to me that seems in doubt. But even if it's true, quite frankly, it doesn't matter. The damage he is doing, perhaps irreparable, is now
As we've said from the start, the key to saving Social Security is Democratic unity. Look at those folks on the Conscience Caucus list. With a very few exceptions they are only there because there's no Democratic cover to make the vote. That's created time for the public to look and see what the president is trying to do. And the more they look, the more they turn against his plan. Throw in a few Democrats supporting phase-out and all but a handful of them will firm up and vote with the White House. Let's say every Dem for phase-out frees up three Republicans.
At the moment, too, the trend of the Social Security story is all running against the president. He can't get the seats filled in New Hampshire, the polls are bad, the Republicans in Congress are increasingly worried, scurrying for cover.
Give him Lieberman and suddenly the President is making headway in the Senate where the key vote will be made. A high-profile Democrat, like Lieberman, for phase-out would probably nail down three or four Senate Republicans for the president. In similar fashion, it would put an equal number of Senate Democrats back in play. One or two of those Dems sign on and you'll see them bring more with them. With a shift like that, suddenly phase-out is back in business and quite possibly even filibuster proof.
On the House side, with a Senate pal for Rep. Allen Boyd, you'd likely see a similar change.
Even if Lieberman eventually decides to keep his hands clean when phase-out comes to a vote, it might not matter since his individual vote probably wouldn't be needed. The damage would already be done.