startling? high wire act by lieberman

Reid Spokesperson : Democratic Senators May
Vote On Lieberman’s Fate In Full Caucus Meeting

Greg Sargent, TPM, Nov 7 2008

Senator Harry Reid’s office has just confirmed to me, on the record, that Reid is considering a new step: Asking all the Democratic Senators to vote on Lieberman’s fate at their upcoming full caucus meeting, if Reid and Lieberman are unable to agree on a way for Lieberman to relinquish his plum chairmanship of the Homeland Security committee. “If Senator Reid and Lieberman don’t reach an agreement, his future chairmanship may be put to a vote by the caucus as a whole on Nov 18,” Reid spokesperson Jim Manley told me, in response to my questions about the next step being mulled by Reid. Manley’s assertion represents the first public acknowledgment that this possibility is being seriously considered, and is a significant ratcheting up of pressure on Lieberman by Reid’s office. Manley said it was unclear as yet how precisely the mechanics of such a move would work, but left no doubt that it was likely to happen if Lieberman and Reid didn’t resolve their impasse before the next caucus meeting. The move would in effect put Lieberman’s fate in the hands of his Dem colleagues.

Reid: Lieberman did something ‘improper’
CNN, Nov 7 2008

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made clear Friday he’s not happy with Joe Lieberman over the onetime Democrat’s avid support of John McCain’s White House bid, but told CNN the Connecticut independent has a strong record of voting with the Democrats. Reid told CNN’s John King:

Joe Lieberman has done something that I think was improper, wrong, and I’d like, if we weren’t on television, I’d use a stronger word of describing what he did. But 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. You look at his record, it’s pretty good.

Sources tell CNN Reid wants to strip Lieberman of his Homeland Security Committee chairmanship and offer him the chairmanship of a less high-profile committee. Lieberman reportedly called the proposal “not acceptable.”

Lieberman not happy with Reid’s offer, flirting with Republicans
Dana Bash, CNN, Nov 7 2008

An aide to Sen. Joe Lieberman tells CNN that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told Lieberman he wanted him to give up his position as Chairman of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, and instead take the helm of a lower profile full committee. A Senate Democratic source familiar with the meeting confirms that account, and tells CNN that one of options Reid gave Lieberman in a private meeting Thursday is Chairman of the Veteran’s Affairs Committee. But the aide to Lieberman says the Connecticut senator made clear that was “not acceptable” to him, and reminded Reid that he was one of the Senators who wrote the legislation creating the Homeland Security Department, and that’s where he wants to stay. Nothing was resolved in the meeting, and the Lieberman aide tells CNN that, although he still wants to caucus with the Democrats, Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell has contacted Lieberman about formally aligning with Republicans, and that Lieberman is “keeping all of his options open.” (An aide to McConnell confirms to CNN that the two men “have been talking.”) This Lieberman aide, who insisted the meeting was very cordial, also says that he reminded Reid that he may have been elected an Independent, but that he has voted overwhelmingly with the Democrats. The Senate Democratic source says this issue will now likely be dealt with by the full Senate Democratic caucus, when it meets on Nov 18. A spokesman for Reid had no immediate comment on the specifics of the meeting, except to say that it was “frank,” and that the two agreed to talk more about Lieberman’s future role in the Senate. The two met on Thursday.

McConnell reaches out to Lieberman
Ryan Grim, Politico, Nov 7 2008

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has reached out to Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) about the prospect of joining the Republican Conference, but Lieberman is still bargaining with Democratic leaders to keep his chairmanship, according to Senate aides in both parties. “They’ve been talking,” McConnell spokesman Don Stewart said. A Lieberman aide cautioned that “Sen. Lieberman’s preference is to stay in the caucus, but he’s going to keep all his options open. McConnell has reached out to him, and at this stage, his position is he wants to remain in the caucus but losing the chairmanship is unacceptable.” A Republican Senate aide said Friday morning that there was little McConnell could offer in terms of high-ranking committee slots, which is why Lieberman is resisting overtures from the Republican side.

Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Lieberman met Thursday, yet Reid is waffling over whether to revoke Lieberman’s chairmanship of the Homeland Security Committee and may instead hold a secret vote among Democratic members on whether to kick Lieberman out of the caucus. Senate aides from both parties caution that Lieberman’s state is still truly up in the air and Reid could still craft a scenario where Lieberman keeps his chairmanship. Lieberman’s aide told Politico on Friday morning that “essentially what transpired is that Sen. Reid talked about taking away his position perhaps for another position, and Sen. Lieberman indicated that was unacceptable.” A person with direct knowledge of the Reid-Lieberman meeting yesterday on Capitol Hill said Reid turned to Lieberman at one point and said, “I prefer to work this out” after Lieberman hinted he would “explore his options” with Republicans if he was stripped of the committee.

“Senate leadership has begun discussing scenarios in which he keeps it,” said one senior Democratic aide of Lieberman’s committee post. Lieberman argued that “he had been a loyal vote on everything except Iraq, gave them the majority [by caucusing with Democrats], had contributed generously to the Democratic Senate campaign committee and voted with the Democrats in greater margins than several of his colleagues over the past two years.” The New York Daily News has reported that Lieberman had “begged” to keep his chairmanship. “The Daily News story was completely and utterly false,” said the Lieberman aide. Lieberman argued that because he was reelected as an independent, “it’s a different situation than a normal Democrat, because … he said that he would view the 2008 election through the prism of neither Democrat nor a Republican — that he’d support the person he preferred rather than party designation. Essentially there was a very amiable conversation,” said the aide. “They left it that they would continue their conversations. They would talk to people within the caucus and they’d get back to each other in the next few days. Obviously, the caucus is meeting the week after next.”

Lieberman has since been having phone conversations with colleagues, but he has yet to meet with any in person, the aide said, adding that most senators have been receptive to Lieberman’s argument that allowing him to stay represents the type of unity that President-elect Barack Obama espouses. The aide also said that Lieberman was not offered a subcommittee, as has been reported, but rather was offered chairmanship of a lesser committee. He didn’t specify which one he was referring to. However, if Lieberman left Homeland Security, Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) would be next in line and would have to give up Veterans Affairs, which would then be open for Lieberman. If Lieberman were to join the Republican conference, however, there’s not much McConnell could offer him. Virtually every ranking position is already spoken for, and Republican senators who have spent years moving up the ranks might not look kindly upon Lieberman leapfrogging them if he switches parties.

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