Former Democrat, and now Independent Senator Joe Lieberman has thoroughly ticked off his liberal colleagues. When he actively campaigned for Republican Senator McCain this year many of the Democrats with whom he has caucused for the last few years felt that it was the last straw. Their knee jerk reaction upon winning big on November 4th was to strip him of his committees and simply cut him loose to fend for himself.
Cooler heads among the Democrats have realized that Lieberman could very well be talked into caucusing with the Republicans, who would benefit greatly from his vote. Josh Marshall, at Talking Points Memo, says Lieberman has friends in high places.
I can also confirm, on the same basis, what Huffington Post has already reported, that President-elect Obama is signaling to Senate leadership and other party officials that he wants Sen. Lieberman to be in the Democratic caucus in the 111th Congress.
Marshall points us to Kos who says he has "also heard from a Senate staffer" and who offers some uncharacteristically thoughtful analysis. Up to a point. He then summarizes, and ignores, his own analysis.
So Democrats have three choices:
- Let him keep his committee chairmanship,
- Offer him a new one, or
- Strip him of everything.
I suspect with Obama's edict (again, assuming such reports are accurate), #3 is off the table as it looks too much like retribution and for whatever bizarre reason, that's apparently bad. Democrats love playing the "battered spouse" bit. But option #2 is still available.
Sure, Lieberman has argued that if he loses Homeland Security he'll bolt, but he's bluffing. He's still got 2012 to think about, and being in a GOP minority with zero committee chairmanships won't do him any favors, either politically or substantively on policy matters.
So call his bluff. Give him some other committee chairmanship. If he doesn't like it and bolts, it won't be because Democrats pushed him out.
Kos then contradicts himself by providing a big graphic link—"Just Say NO to Joe"— at the bottom of his post, to a form providing an automatic way to advocate stripping Lieberman of all his Homeland Security chairmanship and not giving him another.
Democrats are clearly conflicted. On the one hand they long for revenge, though "that's apparently bad". On the other hand they need Lieberman if they want to push through their agenda with as little opposition as possible. From another point of view, Lieberman can't feel very indebted to the Dems, he won his last contest with the help of large numbers of Republicans who voted for him. All of which puts him at the exact point from which, very carefully, a large amount of leverage could be deployed.