Cornyn: GOP 'Would Welcome' Lieberman, Nelson

Tuesday, 02 Nov 2010 04:59 PM

By David A. Patten

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Republican Sen. John Cornyn is rolling out the welcome mat for any Democrats willing to switch party affiliations after Democrats receive the one-sided drubbing most analysts predict on Election Day.

One obvious target for Cornyn's affections: Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, who has been officially listed in Senate records as an "Independent Democrat." Lieberman lost his party's 2006 primary, but john,cornyn,joe,lieberman,ben,nelsonwon the general election running as an independent.

"I think he votes like a Republican on those areas, and we would certainly welcome him or any other Democrat who wants to switch sides of the aisle and caucus with us," Cornyn [pictured], the head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said of Lieberman on Fox News Tuesday.

Another oft-mentioned prospect for a switch is Sen. Ben Nelson, the conservative Nebraska Democrat who at times has found himself at loggerheads with his party's progressives.

Among Nelson's recent run-ins with his party's leadership was his vote against President Barack Obama's Supreme Court nomination of Justice Elena Kagan. Nelson opposed Kagan after releasing a statement that he had "heard concerns from Nebraskans."

Nelson's opposition to Kagan, and the resultant blowback from his Democratic colleagues, led to widespread speculation in August that he might bolt for the Grand Old Party. His office quelled those rumors by releasing a statement that, "Senator Nelson plans to remain a registered Democrat and an independent voice for Nebraska."

Nelson is up for re-election in 2012 in a predominantly red state. The fate of Republican-turned-Democrat Sen. Arlen Specter might discourage him from a party switch, however. After spurning Republicans to join with Democrats, Specter lost in the Democratic Pennsylvania primary to Rep. Joe Sestak.

Nebraska leans much more to the right than Pennsylvania does to the left. Obama won 54.7 percent of the vote over Sen. John McCain in 2008, but preferred Sen. John Kerry over President George W. Bush by just 2.5 percent in 2004.

The Cornhusker State, by contrast, has only voted to put a Democrat in the Oval Office once since 1940 -- the 1964 landslide by Lyndon Johnson over Barry Goldwater.

Republicans currently control 41 Senate seats. A net gain of nine more seats in the midterm election would deadlock the Senate at 50 votes for each party.

Article 1, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution states that in the case of a tie vote in the Senate, the president of the Senate shall cast the deciding vote. Constitutionally, the president of the Senate is the vice president. So if Republicans draw even with Democrats, Vice President Joe Biden would cast the tie-breaker. So even a remarkable net pickup of nine seats, which is more than most pundits expect, would leave Republicans one tantalizing vote shy of being able to control the upper chamber.

But analysts have speculated that if Republicans capture nine seats in a wave election, they might be able to lure a sitting senator over to the Republican side of the aisle. If that happens, Republicans take control.

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