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Lieberman

By Matthew Yglesias on November 10, 2008 at 5:44 pm

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I’m not sure I understand what leverage Joe Lieberman is supposed to have in his battle to save his committee chairmanship. The Democrats get to pick the committee chairs in virtue of having won a majority of Senate seats. Lieberman didn’t campaign for any Democratic Senate candidates but IIRC he did campaign alongside some GOP candidates. And, of course, he not only endorsed John McCain but he stood behind McCain applauding as McCain described standard-issue progressive economic policy as socialism. And as chair of the committee charged with government oversight, he declined to hold any oversight hearings. So Democrats might want to get rid of him. But Lieberman wants to stay:

Lieberman believes he should remain in the Democratic caucus because he helped give the party its majority in the past two years in the Senate, and because he has been “a very reliable Democratic vote” on most issues, except the war in Iraq, the aide said.

“Sen. Lieberman prefers to remain in the Democratic caucus,” the aide said. “However, he believes he should remain as chairman of the Homeland Security Committee. … He thinks that political retribution should not go ahead of homeland security.” [...]

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has approached Lieberman about joining the Republican caucus, but Lieberman’s first preference is to remain a Democrat, according to the aide.

“He’s keeping all his options open,” the aide said. “He has made no decisions whatsoever. No one knows how this is going to be resolved.”

But look. Lieberman can’t swing control to the GOP. And presumably Lieberman isn’t going to adopt liberal views on foreign policy to make Democrats happy and keep his seat. Is he saying that if Democrats decide to put a more loyal partisan in charge of the committee he’ll disavow his previous views on domestic issues and become an opponent of Roe v. Wade and a climate change denier? It’s in his power to make that threat, I suppose, but if he wants to make it he ought to say so plainly and squarely for everyone to hear — that would be a pretty dishonorable kind of threat to make. But if that’s not what he’s saying, then he ought to be asking for forgiveness not “keeping all his options open.”

As it stands, Lieberman seems to be saying that he deserves to stay in charge of the committee in virtue of his moderately progressive domestic views, but that continuing to hold those views is contingent on him getting favors from the Democratic leadership.

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