WASHINGTON (JTA) — An open letter to Joseph Lieberman urged the Connecticut senator to "repent" and support a health care bill with a public option.
"Many of us were delighted in 2000 when you were nominated for Vice-President and proclaimed to all that you were an observant Jew, carrying into the highest level of public service the values of the Jewish people," said the open letter organized by the Shalom Center, a Philadelphia-based progressive Jewish group, and signed by nearly 2,000 Jews, including 126 clergy.
"Now we see with deep distress that you have announced that you will not support the bill before the Senate to bring health care in America even part way toward the universal and affordable coverage that is assumed in every other industrial country, including Israel. You have announced that you intend to join a quasi-filibuster against even taking an up-and-down vote on the bill if it contains either a ‘public option’ provision or one extending the universally praised Medicare system to some younger people."
The letter released Monday calls on Lieberman to "do teshuvah," or repentance. "Then we will be happy once again that you are bringing the values of an ‘observant Jew’ to the public service of the American people," it says.
Lieberman, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, supports the Senate version under consideration now that it has been stripped of an option that would allow states to compete with private health care plans. His support helped beat a Republican filibuster of the bill over the weekend, all but guaranteeing its passage.
Lieberman has suggested, however, that he would join a filibuster of the bill if it returns with the public option restored from the Senate-U.S. House of Representatives conference reconciling both bills.
This is not the first such appeal to Lieberman; a constituent rabbi in Connecticut organized a similar appeal from some 500 Connecticut Jews.