Joe Lieberman: Down as a Dem, But Not Out, and Maybe Not So Down

Tuesday, November 11th, 2008

James Besser in Washington

Remember all those stories about how Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) would be booted from the Democratic caucus once the party no longer needed him to hold on to their razor-thin majority in the Senate?

It’s looking less and less likely that’s going to happen, despite the fury of some Democrats and  a major “Netroots” campaign to have the three-term senator ousted from his position as chair of the Homeland Security Committee.

On Tuesday political gossip channels were clogged with stories about how Senate Democratic leaders and President-elect Barack Obama want the former Democrat – who aggressively campaigned for Sen. John McCain and wasn’t exactly reticent about attacking the Democratic nominee – to stay close to the Democratic reservation, if not actually on it.  Even former President Bill Clinton is reportedly getting in on the action.

The reasons aren’t hard to figure out: with last week’s gains, the Democrats are tantalizingly close to the magic number of 60 needed to stop Republican filibusters.  Lieberman usually votes with the Democrats on domestic matters; keeping him from bolting to the Republicans, it turns out, may be more important to key Democratic leaders than punishing him for supporting McCain, speaking at the Republican National Convention and praising Sarah Palin.

But what will the Democrats have to give him to keep Lieberman from crossing over to the Republican side of the aisle? Reports this week suggest the senator is adamant about keeping the Homeland Security chair, something that will be hard for the Democratic rank and file to swallow.

But increasingly, it looks like pragmatic Democratic leaders are ready to take a big gulp.

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.