“I said to them, I didn’t run for re-election—and no one here did—asking the voters in my state to vote for me because I would always do what a majority of members of the caucus did even if I thought some of those things were wrong,” Lieberman said. “None of us would pledge that to our constituents.”
Lieberman said “it’s not fun” going against the wishes of so many of his colleagues, but added that Obama allowed for some levity. “The president said, ‘Why don’t we all begin to have some fun? Let’s pass the bill,’ ” Lieberman said.
Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, the only other independent in the Senate, reportedly made an impassioned speech in favor of a public option.
Both the Medicare expansion and public option have all but been stripped from the Senate’s bill in a move to help them garner the 60 votes needed to pass it.
Sen. Robert Casey Jr. (D-Pa.) said that the meeting among the sometimes-divided Democratic caucus proved a candid one, with several lawmakers raising their own objections to parts of the bill.
“One thing about this meeting, which is probably different from some we’ve had, is because the moment we’re at, there is probably a little more candor than there might be in a more ceremonial meeting,” Casey said. “Obviously, there’s been an internal debate about a public option and what it looks like, but it wasn’t all that.”
In his post-meeting statement, Obama seemed to underscore those sentiments. “There are still some differences that have to be worked on,” he said. “This was not a roll call. This was a broad-based discussion on how to move forward.”
Still, lawmakers seemed guardedly optimistic that they would pass a reform package by year-end. “We don’t have 60 locked in, but we’ll have 60,” Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said.
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