Indy Joe Pays Some Penance

By Natalie Gewargis

Nov 6, 2008 1:42pm

ABC’s Z. Byron Wolf reports from Capitol Hill: With three races still unresolved, Democrats have so far picked up 6 new Senators in Tuesday’s election.

But they could lose a member too.

Sen. Joe Lieberman, who styles himself as an "Independent Democrat" after losing the Connecticut Democratic primary in 2006 but winning in the general election as an Independent, helped give Democrats the majority in 2006 by continuing to caucus with them.

“The people of Connecticut were good enough to reelect me to the United States Senate in 2006 as an Independent, and so I have tried since then to view the decisions that I make here in the Senate not through a partisan lens, but rather from the perspective of what I believe is right for my country and my state," Lieberman said today.

The view from behind that independent lens led Lieberman to back fellow hawk Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., in the Presidential election.

With McCain and Republicans being rebuffed by voters, there is a desire among rank and file Democrats that there should be consequences for his insolence. It seems to be a foregone conclusion that Lieberman will lose his chairmanship of the high profile Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Reform.

The question is whether Lieberman’s punishment by Democrats and his relegation to the back bench of the caucus will be so painful for him that he will leave altogether and enter the minority wasteland currently inhabited by Republicans in the Senate.

A tough call for Lieberman, who beyond national security issues is still very progressive.
Republicans, despite the beating their numbers took on Tuesday have not indicated they are actively pursuing Lieberman as a member of their caucus.

Lieberman met with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., this afternoon and after he spoke briefly to reporters, taking no questions, Lieberman pleaded for a bit more time.

"I want to spend some time in the next few days thinking about what Sen. Reid and I discussed and what my options are at this point and he promised me that he would do the same and we will continue these conversations."

Lieberman seemed to pursue some post-election mercy when he said, "The election is over and I completely agree with President-elect Obama that we must now unite to get our economy going again and keep the American people safe. That is exactly what I intend to do with my colleagues here in the Senate in support of our new President. And those are the standards I will use in considering the options I have before me. And of course I will ask others to do the same."

For the moment, it’s working for Lieberman. No decisions have been made by Democrats on what exactly to do with Indy Joe.

In a written statement after the meeting, Reid said: "While I understand that Senator Lieberman has voted with Democrats a majority of the time, his comments and actions have raised serious concerns among many in our caucus. I expect there to be additional discussions in the days to come, and Senator Lieberman and I will speak to our caucus in two weeks to discuss further steps.”

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