Lieberman May be Stripped of Seniority
Key Democratic Party leaders are angry at Joe Lieberman for running against their nominee and there is now talk of stripping his seniority within the caucus.
A group of Senate Democrats is growing increasingly angry about Sen. Joe Lieberman’s (D-Conn.) campaign tactics since he lost the Democratic primary last week. If he continues to alienate his colleagues, Lieberman could be stripped of his seniority within the Democratic caucus should he defeat Democrat Ned Lamont in the general election this November, according to some senior Democratic aides.
In recent days, Lieberman has rankled Democrats in the upper chamber by suggesting that those who support bringing U.S. troops home from Iraq by a certain date would bolster terrorists’ planning attacks against the U.S. and its allies. He also sparked resentment by saying last week on NBC’s Today show that the Democratic Party was out of the political mainstream.
Democrats are worried that Lieberman may be giving Republicans a golden opportunity to undermine their message. “I think there’s a lot of concern,” said a senior Democratic aide who has discussed the subject with colleagues. “I think the first step is if the Lieberman thing turns into a side show and hurts our message and ability to take back the Senate, and the White House and the [National Republican Senatorial Committee] manipulate him, there are going to be a lot of unhappy people in our caucus.”
The issue of Lieberman’s seniority would arise most dramatically if Lieberman wins re-election and Democrats recapture control of the chamber. That would slot Lieberman to take over as chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, the panel primarily responsible for investigating the executive branch.
“At this point Lieberman cannot expect to just keep his seniority,” said the aide. “He can’t run against a Democrat and expect to waltz back to the caucus with the same seniority as before. It would give the view that the Senate is a country club rather than representative of a political party and political movement.” The aide said that it would make no sense to keep Lieberman in a position where he might take over the Governmental Affairs Committee.
The view that Lieberman should lose his seniority is likely to become more ingrained among Democrats if Lieberman continues to align himself with Republicans, as he has in the last few days. Lieberman took a call from senior White House political strategist Karl Rove on the day of his primary election. And since losing, he has adopted rhetoric echoing Republican talking points.
So far, at least 26 Democratic senators have said they are supporting Lamont, including Reid, according to a survey conducted by The Hill. Reid spokesman Jim Manley said Democratic leaders would make no decisions about committees until after the election.
The morning after Lamont’s win, Markos Moulitsas ZÃºniga outlined a
fivefour point plan that I considered “amazingly stupid.” Interestingly, the Democrats are now following the DailyKos playbook.
While I still think it unlikely that the Democrats will retake the Senate, there is some possibility of that happening. The best case scenarios, though, have the Democrats having a 51-49 lead, which would include the “independent” Lieberman. If they stripped him of his seniority, one would think the Republicans would woo him with an important chairmanship in exchange for caucusing with them, making it 50-50 with Vice President Cheney as the tiebreaker.