On CNN’s Late Edition, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said he recognizes what Joe Lieberman said and did during the campaign was “wrong” and “improper,” telling host John King, “if we weren’t on television, I’d use a stronger word of describing what he did.” But he added, “Joe Lieberman is not some right-wing nutcase, Joe Lieberman is one of the most progressive people ever to come from the state of Connecticut.” Watch it:
YouTube version here.
Reid had a blunt prediction for Sen. Ted Stevens’ future. “All the Republicans, John Ensign, head of the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, Republican Leader McConnell and a long list of people said that he’s going to be kicked out of the Senate,” Reid said. “Of course he is. He is not going to survive.”
KING: A lot of attention focused on a new president coming into town but you have a pretty interesting job yourself, managing a sometimes dysfunctional family here in the Senate. You mentioned Senator McCain, I want to move on to one of his sidekicks on the campaign trail, was Senator Lieberman who is an independent but a member of your Democratic family. When it comes to voting in the Senate, many members, many of your Democratic members flatly think he is a traitor for not only his support of John McCain but for the things he said critical of Barack Obama. They want him gone.
You have proposed he lose his premier committee, Homeland Security, take a lesser committee, Veterans’ Affairs or something else. Why not just say sorry, Joe, you are not welcome here anymore.
REID: Well, John, whoever gave you this information is wrong because he is not on the Veterans’ Committee. I couldn’t offer him that if I wanted to.
But let me just say this about John – about Joe Lieberman. I know Joe Lieberman very well. He is a senior member of the Senate. He is on Armed Services, if something happens to the chairman he becomes chairman. If something happens to the chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, he becomes chairman. So he is a senior member – person around here. And I want to remind all of the people that are watching this newscast or however this program is going to air that I would not be majority leader but for his vote.
We could not have passed our budget – we passed a budget the Republicans couldn’t pass. They had 55 senators. We had 51. They couldn’t pass a budget, we did. Why? Joe Lieberman voted with us.
So I recognize what he did was wrong and quite frankly, I don’t like what he did. I told him so all during the campaign. But the caucus has a decision to make and they’re going to make it. I am not going to make the decision. Whether we’re going to say, OK, we’ve had enough of you, Joe, go vote with the Republicans or whether we’re going to try to work something out with Joe Lieberman. Say, Joe, we don’t like what you did. And here is what we propose we’re going to do.
So we’ve had a number of conversations, we’re going to have more. But for those people beating up on Joe Lieberman, I’ve done my share. Recognize the glass being half full, not half empty.
KING: He’s chairman of the committee now, the Homeland Security Committee, which has a lot to do with the safety of Americans here. You mentioned Armed Services. He said this at the Republican Convention. He highlighted John McCain’s service and he criticized those who quote, “wanted to retreat in defeat from the field of battle which would have been a disaster for the United States. When colleagues like Barack Obama were voting to cut off funding for troops on the battlefield.”
Senator Obama is about to be President Obama, about to be the commander in chief. Do you want a man who says he is not ready to be commander in chief, nowhere close, to be the chairman of a committee in the Democratic Senate?
REID: Joe Lieberman told me yesterday we had a big job to do. I am going to do everything I can to help Barack Obama.
KING: Does he owe him an apology?
REID: Oh, I don’t know. This is not a high school deal where you say, OK, you embarrassed me in front of my girlfriend therefore you ought to apologize.
KING: But you made peace with Senator McCain. Should he do something like that?
REID: Maybe they already have. I think a lot of this is very private stuff but 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. But you look at his record, it’s pretty good. He comes from one of the most liberal states in the country. He is – Joe Lieberman is not some right-wing nutcase, Joe Lieberman is one of the most progressive people ever to come from the state of Connecticut.
Prior to Reid and Lieberman’s recent meeting to discuss his chairmanship post over Homeland Security, Newsweek reported this:
If the meeting goes as planned, this aide confirms to NEWSWEEK, Reid will only give Lieberman the equivalent of a legislative talking-to, demanding that he rally behind Obama, or at the very least, release a statement of support for the president-elect. But if it turns tense or combative, Reid could deny admission to the Democratic caucus, even strip away Lieberman’s valuable chairmanship of the Senate Homeland Security Committee. “I doubt that will happen,” this aide says, “unless the meeting goes really bad.”
,Greg Sargent reports that a Lieberman aide tells the Hartford Courant that removing his boss from the Homeland Security chairmanship would be putting politics ahead of the nation’s safety.
,Late last week, CNN reported Lieberman had turned down the chairmanship of the Veterans Affairs Committee, claiming it was “not acceptable” to him. But in his interview with CNN, Reid corrected the record: “Whoever gave you this information is wrong because he is not on the Veterans’ Committee. I couldn’t offer him that if I wanted to.”