Reid hints that Lieberman may be booted from committee chairmanship
Published: Thursday June 5, 2008

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Sen. Joe Lieberman's recent antics on behalf of Republican John McCain's presidential campaign haven't helped his popularity in the Democratic caucus in recent days.

First Democratic nominee Barack Obama gave the Connecticut Independent a stern talking-to on the Senate floor Wednesday -- after Lieberman slammed Obama's speech on Israel.

Now Lieberman's position as chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee may be in danger, according to the subscription-only Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call reports:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Thursday left open the possibility that Sen. Joe Lieberman’s (Conn.) status as an influential chairman in the Democratic Conference may not be solid for the long term, even as he reiterated the Independent Democrat’s importance on key party priorities.

Reid’s mixed messages on Lieberman come one day after the Connecticut Senator launched public attacks on the Democrats’ newly anointed presidential hopeful, Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.). Lieberman has long backed the presumptive GOP presidential candidate Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), but took that support to a different level in attacking Obama this week.

“I’ve had a conversation with Joe Lieberman of some length — I’m not going to discuss those conversations here,” Reid told reporters, but he was quick to add that “we’ll let the future decide” Lieberman’s long-term role as a key party chairman and member of the Conference.

Reid said he was “not going to threaten anyone here.”

The Majority Leader’s posture Thursday mirrored the fine line he’s walked on the delicate issue of Lieberman’s role in the party for months. Reid has been reluctant to criticize Lieberman — a longtime friend — ever since he switched from the Democratic party to become an Independent Democrat nearly two years ago.

Lieberman's stature among Democrats has fallen precipitously since his 2000 White House campaign as Al Gore's running mate. Much of the animosity toward's Lieberman is based on his vocal support for the 2003 invasion of Iraq and his continued defense of President Bush's war policies; he also has sided with the Bush administration on issues like warrantless wiretapping and the Patriot Act.

After losing a primary campaign in Connecticut in 2006, Lieberman left the Democratic party to become an Independent, and the held on to his Senate seat in the general election. Reid has generally defended Lieberman because he continues to vote with Democrats on some issues.