Lieberman Says War Vote Could Prompt Party Switch

Joe Lieberman has told The Politico‘s Carrie Budoff that he may switch to the Republican Party if the Democrats continue on their present course.

Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut told the Politico on Thursday that he has no immediate plans to switch parties but suggested that Democratic opposition to funding the war in Iraq might change his mind. Lieberman, a self-styled independent who caucuses with the Democrats, has been among the strongest supporters of the war and President Bush’s plan to send an additional 21,500 combat troops into Iraq to help quell the violence there.

“I have no desire to change parties,” Lieberman said in a telephone interview. “If that ever happens, it is because I feel the majority of Democrats have gone in a direction that I don’t feel comfortable with.” Asked whether that hasn’t already happened with Iraq, Lieberman said: “We will see how that plays out in the coming months,” specifically how the party approaches the issue of continued funding for the war.

TIME’s Massimo Calabresi reports that there are already signs that Lieberman has left the Democrats, even aside from his designation as an “Independent Democrat” and his alienation from the base on the war.

Early this year he terrified fellow Democrats by skipping several of the weekly caucus lunches that cement party fidelity in the Senate. Recently he was spotted in the Republican cloakroom talking with South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham about reforming Social Security. He even says he might vote Republican for President in 2008, a not-so-veiled hint that he would prefer John McCain, his fellow true believer in the Iraq war, to most, perhaps all, Democratic alternatives.

As I noted in November, while I would have welcomed a Lieberman switch before the election, I’m opposed in principle to a party switch without a concomitant resignation and standing for re-election under one’s new party banner. Lieberman was defeated in the Democratic primary and had every right to thumb his nose at his his former party. He promised repeatedly, though, that he would caucus with the Democrats and people voted for him relying on his word.

David Sirota, conversely, would be temporarily disadvantaged by the switch (which would allow Dick Cheney the right to break a tie, essentially overturning the last election) but would welcome a Lieberman switch because “we have basic gridlock right now” and Democrats “could pass their entire agenda through the House and then blame the Republican Party in the Senate and White House for stopping it” if they didn’t nominally control the Senate.

A whole lot more discussion linked at Memeorandum.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Nick says:

    Let’s be honest here.

    Lieberman has been in limbo ever since he lost the democratic nomination in his area.

    He has no affiliation except to keep himself in power.

  2. Or you can be dishonest and say Joe Lieberman has no affiliation except to keep himself in power. I know its difficult from inside the echo chamber, but is it possible to comment without impuging his motives of offer something other than a challenge to his integrity?

    I disagree with a lot of Senator Lieberman’s political positions, but he is an honest man and one with more courage and integrity in his little finger than most of the Senators from both sides of the aisle put together. I don’t particularly care whether he switches parties or not, as I have no interest in or respect for the posturing going on in Congress today.

    Thank God all the interesting and important issues have been decided so the Democratically led Congress can spend all its time on non-binding resolutions and manuevering to affix political blame.

  3. Anderson says:

    It shouldn’t be necessary to say what a colostomy bag Lieberman is, but I’ll say it anyway.

    So a majority of Dems are going in a direction he’s not comfortable with?

    What direction, pray tell, did a majority of Repubs go in over the last 6 years? And how comfy was L. with that? But now the Dems are unacceptable to him?

    What a depraved little man. If it weren’t for the razor-thin grip on the Senate that the Dems have, I’d be longing for him to switch.

  4. Tano says:

    As far as I understand it, Lieberman switching parties would NOT change the leadership of the Senate.

    After the 2000 elections, the Senate was evenly divided. With Gore in his last weeks as VP, the Dems actually had the right to control the Senate. They struck a deal with the GOP whereby they would allow the GOP to act as majority even though Cheney had yet to be sworn in, in exchange for a provision in the organizing resolution that said that the leadership question would be revistited if anyone switched parties. Thats why Jefford’s switch led to Dem control.

    There was no such provision in this years organizing resolution, and I beleive that it is clear that the Dems would retain majority status, with chairmanships, till the next election, irrespective of any switching.

  5. anjin-san says:

    Lieberman is pretty much a self-serving turd. If he were to switch parties, he would also prove himself to be a liar.

  6. James Joyner says:

    clear that the Dems would retain majority status, with chairmanships, till the next election, irrespective of any switching.

    Not gonna happen, although it likely should. I can’t imagine the Republicans would let any Senate business take place under those circumstances.

  7. lunacy says:

    Leiberman gets thrown under the bus by his own party howlers and HE’s the turd?

    Obviously, his constituents are okay with him.

  8. LJD says:

    Interesting to see the nasty personal attacks on Lieberman, simply because of his position on one issue. More evidence the Democrat party has reached all time lows in character.
    What I have seen of Lieberman, agree with him or not, is a lawmaker that folows his conscience, what he knows is right, rather than putting his finger to the wind a la Hilary. Unfortunaterly, a rare trait among those in Congress who truly have no affilitiation than to keep themselves in power.

  9. Anderson says:

    I saw Tano’s point a few places around after my comment. JJ may be right. The Repubs would filibuster, the Dems would have to “go nuclear,” and they would presumably have to break the filibuster to do that.

    The media of course would spin it as Dem obstructionism, Senate rules be damned, so the Dems would lose that battle.

  10. Bandit says:

    Typical insightful analysis by the left

    colostomy bag, turd

    since his party didn’t nominate him and party leaders certainly didn’t support him I guess he really doesn’t owe them anything does he?

  11. So Senator Joe Lieberman is a self serving turd. How weird must it be to find someone like that in the US Senate?

  12. This wouldn’t be Lieberman leaving the democratic party, but rather a new coalition. As I understand it, there are two “independents” in the senate (Sanders and Lieberman) who are not in the democratic or republican party. They voted to align with the democrats, but as Italy’s left is finding out, voting to align can change. Our institutions aren’t really geared towards coalition government.

    From a practical standpoint, I think the republicans are better off with Lieberman aligning with the democrats. If the “majority” of the senate changed, it would give the democrats cover for their non-performance in regards to the lack of red meat for the left. It would also energize the left, rather than the slow bleed over the next couple of years as things don’t change.

  13. Michael says:

    Now I’m no expert on the rules of the Senate, but why can’t Lieberman just vote against his party on Iraq resolutions, while still voting for his party on leadership selections? Does Lieberman think that he has to abandon his party on all other issues, instead of just this one?

    And I’m getting tired of saying it, but Lieberman lost the primary election because of the majority the primary voters in his party didn’t like him. It wasn’t a fringe minority of Democrats that voted against him, it was the majority! Stop bitching when democracy works.

  14. lunacy says:

    “Stop bitching when democracy works.”

    The same could be said to all the Leiberman naysayers who just want him to shut up and go away because he won’t walk the party (that shunned him) line.