U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman, the former Democratic vice presidential candidate who backed Republican John McCain for president, will meet with Democratic leaders this week to determine his fate with the party.
By all accounts, it appears to be grim. Unless there’s some change in sentiment determined by a new balance in the Senate, the independent Democrat from Connecticut will likely lose his chairmanship of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, according to several reports. That may push him into the Republican caucus.
“I can’t see how he keeps the chairmanship for that committee, but they will talk and part of the discussion will focus on Lieberman’s actions during the presidential campaign,” a senior Democratic aide told Politico.
Lieberman spent election night in Arizona with McCain, his close friend. He is expected back in Washington on Thursday and said he’s seeking to smooth things over.
“Now that the election is over, it is time to put partisan considerations aside,” he said in a statement, “and come together as a nation to solve the difficult challenges we face and make our blessed land stronger and safer. I pledge to work with President-elect Obama and his incoming administration in their efforts to reinvigorate our economy and keep our nation secure and free.”
But Lieberman’s statements about the Democrats at the Republican Convention, and just before Election Day, have angered many Democrats. Blogs like the Daily Kos and Moveon.org, angered by his support of the Iraq war, campaigned against him in his last election. He lost the Democratic primary but won his fourth Senate term as an independent.
Even more infuriating to some was his appearances with Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the woman who may become the new face of the GOP. "She's so strong, she's . . . so capable, she's so competent," he told a GOP rally last month in Clearwater, Fla.
On Tuesday, Lieberman said he feared that the country would be hurt if Democrats won a filibuster-proof 60-seat majority in the Senate.
The Connecticut senator was asked on the Glenn Beck radio show on Tuesday whether he agrees with Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah that, “if we don’t at least have the firewall of the filibuster in the Senate, that in many ways America will not survive.”
Lieberman responded: “Well, I hope it’s not like that, but I fear.”
Reid is under heavy pressure from some Democrats who want him to act decisively against Lieberman.
"As long as he's stripped of his committee chairmanship, I don't care what he does,” blogger Markos Moulitsas of DailyKos said in an e-mail. “He can be an irrelevant backbencher in our caucus if he so decides, or he can quit, or he can switch parties. Whatever. It'll have little practical impact on anything, so I'm ready to move on.”
But booting Lieberman from the Democratic ranks would mean losing a loyal vote for Democratic priorities on most issues, and Reid may not want to do that at this point, Politico said. And since Senate Democrats probably will not end up with the six to seven seats that many hoped for, they won’t have a big margin of control on panels.
With 57 or 58 seats without Lieberman, they would have had a three-vote margin on the powerful Appropriations Committee. But if Lieberman joins the Senate GOP Conference, Democrats would have only 55 votes in the chamber, giving them less room to flex their muscle on Appropriations and other Senate panels.
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