WASHINGTON — Sen. Joe Lieberman will keep his chairmanship of the Senate Homeland Security Committee despite hard feelings over his support for GOP nominee John McCain during the presidential campaign.
The Connecticut independent will lose a minor panel post as punishment for criticizing Obama this fall.
Lieberman’s colleagues in the Democratic caucus voted 42-13 Tuesday on a resolution condemning statements made by Lieberman during the campaign but allowing him to keep the Homeland Security Committee gavel. He loses an Environment and Public Works panel subcommittee chairmanship, however.
Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he was very angry by Lieberman’s actions but that “we’re looking forward, we’re not looking back.”
Added Reid: “Is this a time when we walk out of here and say, ‘Boy, did we get even?’” said Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.
Lieberman’s grasp on his chairmanship has gotten stronger since President-elect Barack Obama signaled to Democratic leaders that he’s not interested in punishing Lieberman for boosting McCain and criticizing Obama during the long campaign.
“This is the beginning of a new chapter, and I know that my colleagues in the Senate Democratic Caucus were moved not only by the kind words that Senator Reid said about my longtime record, but by the appeal from President-elect Obama himself that the nation now unite to confront our very serious problems,” Lieberman said after the vote.
Anger toward Lieberman seems to have softened since Election Day, and Democrats didn’t want to drive him from the Democratic caucus by taking away his chairmanship and send the wrong signals as Obama takes office on a pledge to unite the country. Lieberman had indicated it would be unacceptable for him to lose his chairmanship.
Lieberman, who was Democratic presidential nominee Al Gore’s running mate in 2000, was re-elected in 2006 as an independent after losing his state’s Democratic primary. He remains a registered Democrat and aligns with the party inside the Senate.
“It’s time to unite our country,” said Lieberman supporter Ken Salazar, D-Colo.
On the other side were senators who feel that one requirement to be installed in a leadership position is party loyalty.
“To reward Senator Lieberman with a major committee chairmanship would be a slap in the face of millions of Americans who worked tirelessly for Barack Obama and who want to see real change in our country,” Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said in a statement Friday. “Appointing someone to a major post who led the opposition to everything we are fighting for is not ‘change we can believe in.’”