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Secret Ballot To Decide Lieberman's Fate

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Secret Ballot To Decide Lieberman's Fate By JESSE A. HAMILTON | The Hartford Courant November 15, 2008


WASHINGTON — - Senate Democrats will decide by secret ballot Tuesday whether to take away Sen. Joe Lieberman's chairmanship of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee — a post from which he oversees U.S. security issues, as well as the operations of a wide segment of the federal government.


The anger over Lieberman's campaigning for the Republican presidential candidate is still boiling — fueled by memories of his undercutting Barack Obama, including in a nationally televised speech at the Republican National Convention.


Majority Leader Harry Reid met with Lieberman two days after the election, telling him that his chairmanship might be on the line.


But just as it looked as if his future in the Senate could be as a political hermit, the backlash against him has faltered. So Tuesday's vote — the talk of Capitol Hill — has become as uncertain as a stock market investment.



The Right Move By Democrats?



Senate Democrats are expected to vote Tuesday morning to take away Joe Lieberman's chairmanship of two minor subcommittees, but allow him to remain chairman of the powerful Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. The loss of the two subcommittees is Lieberman's punishment for his ardent support of Republican John McCain's presidential campaign.



Only a few of Lieberman's fellow senators were open about their opinions.


Two fellow New England senators, the duo from Vermont, want Lieberman's gavel taken away. Sen. Patrick Leahy, judiciary committee chairman, said in a Vermont Public Radio interview Friday, "I'm one who does not feel that somebody should be rewarded with a major chairmanship after doing what he did."


And Bernie Sanders issued a statement quoted by the Associated Press: "To reward Sen. Lieberman with a major committee chairmanship would be a slap in the face of millions of Americans who worked tirelessly for Barack Obama and who want to see real change in our country. Appointing someone to a major post who led the opposition to everything we are fighting for is not 'change we can believe in.'" Sanders — like Lieberman — is an independent who caucuses with the Democrats.


Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., told Fox News, "I don't think retribution or revenge is in the best interest of anyone." He argued for letting "bygones be bygones." "We're going to need him on health care and energy independence and education and a whole lot of other things." But he said in a different interview Wednesday night that Lieberman should apologize for what he did — a sentiment that Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., echoed in another interview.


Whether he is calling to issue apologies or not, Lieberman has been trying to set up a phone conversation with Obama. He has already spoken on the phone recently with Vice President-elect Joe Biden — a call that was said by a Lieberman aide to have been "a friendly, congratulatory conversation."


Sen. Chris Dodd has said he's trying to find a way to keep Lieberman in the caucus, although his office wouldn't say Friday whether he would vote against stripping Lieberman of his chairmanship.


Obama's spokespeople said the president-elect is not holding any grudges and wants Lieberman to keep caucusing with Democrats. After threatening Lieberman's position, Reid said in a CNN interview, "Joe Lieberman votes with me a lot more than a lot of my senators. He didn't support us on military stuff, and he didn't support us on Iraq stuff. But you look at his record, it's pretty good."


If the independent senator were still the 51st vote giving the Democrats their Senate majority, it's unlikely that this conflict would be coming to a head. But with the strong new majority this month's elections provided, the Democrats can finally talk about punishing Connecticut's junior senator.


Reid and Lieberman have had at least one more conversation over the phone since their Nov. 6 meeting, a Lieberman aide said, though no details were released. The aide said again Friday: "We have stated that it is the senator's preference to remain in the Democratic caucus, but being denied his chairmanship of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee would be unacceptable."


That's a threat that he could switch sides. Lieberman could consider the invitation of the GOP caucus, which may barely be hanging on to its filibuster power. Taking a vote out of the Democratic side and putting it with the Republicans would ensure that the GOP keeps its ability to derail Democratic legislation.


Jesse A. Hamilton is The Courant's Washington bureau chief.

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These are very strange times. I believe that Lieberman AND some other Dem congressmen/women? may cross over to the other side if

the revenge factor of censorship and intimidation starts to really become the law of the new administration's side of things.


Go too far left, persecute those who won't fall in line, and I believe there are other Dems who will object to that harsh and belligerent kind of treatment

of Lieberman so much, that they too, as Americans, may stand up for what is honest and true, to keep the checks and balances in good shape, if

things are serious and wrong enough.

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