Senate Democrats this week voted to let Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman keep his chairmanship of the Homeland Security Committee, despite his fierce criticism of Barack Obama and support for John McCain during the campaign. Lieberman, a former Democratic vice presidential nominee, is now an independent, though he votes with Democrats on most issues. Some senators and liberal activists wanted Lieberman to pay for his betrayal. But after Obama signaled his support, Senate Democrats voted 42–13 to let him keep his homeland security panel slot. Lieberman did lose his chairmanship of an environmental subcommittee.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the tally showed that Democrats were more interested in “solving the nation’s problems” than in settling partisan scores. For his part, Lieberman issued an apology of sorts, saying that in the heat of the campaign, he had made some comments “I wish I had not made.” Democrats, he said, opted “for reconciliation and not retribution.”
“This is punishment via feather duster,” said The Wall Street Journal in an editorial. “The Internet Left and other liberal activists are in full meltdown” because Lieberman wasn’t sent to the “guillotine.” But Obama needs a coalition in Congress to pass his agenda. “Lieberman alive is of more use to the new president than Lieberman banished.”
“Evidently, the Senate is the kind of place where you can do anything you want and get away with it,” said Mike Madden in Salon.com. Lieberman practically begged “to be tossed out of his party”; then, after the election, he had the nerve to pronounce that losing his chairmanship would be “unacceptable.” By caving to the traitor’s demand, Senate Democrats appear weak.
But Obama sure comes out looking strong, said Manu Raju in TheHill.com. He deployed his “tactic of binding former enemies close to him,” just as he has by discussing a Cabinet post with Hillary Clinton. Right after the election, Obama called Reid and put the brakes on a movement to punish Lieberman, “which could have driven him into the arms” of Republicans. So who does Lieberman now owe “for the power he will wield next Congress?”