UPDATE: Lieberman keeps chairmanship
Democrats voted to let Joe Lieberman keep his plum committee post, despite the Connecticut senator's divisive campaigning on behalf of Republican John McCain's presidential bid.
"It's very clear that the vast majority of the Democratic caucus wants to keep Sen. Lieberman as the chairman of his committee, a member of the Armed Services Committee, and that was done, it's all over with," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told reporters after a Democratic caucus meeting Tuesday. "Joe Lieberman is a Democrat, he's a part of this caucus."
Lieberman maintained his spot as chairman on the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, despite calls for him to lose that post because of his campaigning for McCain.
Reid, addressing reporters in the US Capitol Tuesday morning, said the caucus was not interested in retribution and wanted to move beyond the campaign.
On a 42-to-13 vote, the Democratic caucus approved a resolution that allowed Lieberman to keep his Chairmanship of the Homeland Security Committee and of an Armed Services subcommittee, but removed him as a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee. The resolution also expressed disapproval of his activities on behalf of McCain.
Speaking to reporters after Reid, Lieberman said he appreciated the Democrats' "respect for my independence of mind," although he did express qualified regret for some of the attacks he unleashed on Obama.
"The resolution expresses strong disapproval and rejection of statements I made about Sen. Obama during the campaign," Lieberman said. "And in that regard, I said very clearly, some of the statements, some of the things people have said I said about Sen. Obama are simply not true. There are other statements that I made that I wish I had made more clearly, and there were some ... that I wish I had not made at all. And obviously in the heat of campaigns, that happens to all of us. But I regret that, and now it's time to move on."
Before Tuesday's vote, observers expected that the Independent Connecticut senator would receive little more than a slap on the wrist for the myriad scurrilous attacks he unleashed on President-elect Barack Obama during the campaign.
Lieberman hardly seemed chastised after the Democratic caucus voted to keep him. He said he agreed to leave the Environment and Public Works Committee to make room for freshmen senators who wanted to serve there.
"In the spirit of cooperation, I said I would do that," he said.
Lieberman promised that as soon as the 111th Congress convenes he would co-sponsor a bill with McCain to address climate change.
Politico reported that Lieberman's strong chances to keep his chairmanship earlier in the day.
“My sense is that he will remain in the caucus, and probably — I’m guessing — remain chairman of the Homeland Security committee,” said Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR), a junior member close to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) told Politico. “Our caucus is not a lockstep caucus. He obviously supported McCain every way he could, and he is out of sync with the Democrats on Iraq, but if you look at pretty much every other issue, he’s a Democrat.”
Lieberman has been a strong supporter of President Bush on issues that go beyond simply keeping troops in Iraq. He's supported waterboarding, warrantless wiretapping, and has said it's "crazy" for Guantanamo Bay detainees to have their day in court.
Markos Moulitsas, who has been among the most vocal progressive bloggers seeking Lieberman's dismissal, called the compromise unacceptable.
Um, what idiot would think that taking away a subcommittee from Lieberman would be seen as a "stinging rebuke"? In whose DC-Beltway-addled mind is that even remotely punishment?Lieberman detractors also are easing their pending grief with laughter. A new site launched this week, LaughAtLieberman.com, encourages users to record themselves calling Lieberman's Senate office an laughing, posting the results to YouTube.
Let Lieberman keep that subcommittee. No one gives a shit about it. The only thing that matters, the only thing that Lieberman wants, and the only thing we don't want him to have -- is the chairmanship of the Homeland Security Committee.
If this is the "starting point", and given the Senate Democrats' history of capitulations, expect Lieberman to come out of that meeting as majority leader.
Always one of the most conservative members of the Democratic caucus, Lieberman has been drifting further from the party's base in recent years. Despite losing a Democratic primary in 2006, the senator held onto his seat by running as an independent. However, he continued to caucus with the party, ensuring that Democrats would control the Senate that year.
Now that Democrats have picked up at least six additional Senate seats, many are clamoring to boot Lieberman from the caucus. During the presidential campaign he was an early and enthusiastic supporter of McCain, and Lieberman accused Obama of being unprincipled, attacked him over Rev. Wright and questioned his patriotism.
Soon after the election, Lieberman indicated that it would be "unacceptable" to be stripped of his Homeland Security chairmanship, and Democrats apparently would rather let him keep the powerful post than see him flee to the Republican caucus.
This video is from MSNBC's News Live, broadcast Nov. 18, 2008.
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