Washington Correspondent Mike Madden of Salon news recently wrote an article about whether or not Democrats should take away Sen. Joe Lieberman’s chairmanship of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.
I hope he is right in predicting that Lieberman will lose his chairmanship, but that is far from a foregone outcome.
Let’s say Democrats end up with at least 53 seats, McCain wins, and Palin is Vice-President. In that case, Lieberman’s vote isn’t needed for the Democrats to control the Senate. The Democatic margin is likely to be even greater no matter who wins the Presidency, so there should be no question that the Senate Democrats will be the majority party in the next Congress.
Lieberman deserves to lose his chairmanship because he violated a core principle: he supported the Republican candidate for President – and not casually – and therefore forefeits the benefits of the Democratic caucus. This has nothing to do with relationships in the cozy Senate club. This is public accountability – if Democrats let Lieberman keep his chairmanship, they will have forefeited elementary accountability and caucus integrity. This is tantamount to the Democrats surrendering to one man and forefeiting their ability to govern. They will have led with weakness.
He should lose his chairmanship, but not be kicked out of the caucus. Anyone who wants to vote with the Democrats as the majority should be permitted to, unless a person is the likes of David Duke.
A separate question is whether Lieberman should lose his Committee assignments and go to the bottom of the Democratic seniority list. (That is what happened to Wayne Morse when he left the Republican Party and became an Independent.) Because Lieberman kept his pledge to Connecticut voters and voted to organize the Senate with Democrats as the majority, kicking him off of his legislative Committees is more problematic. But losing his chairmanship if the Democratic total is at least 52 should be non-negotiable.
This issue will test the Senate Democrats on whether they have political party and caucus accountability. The question for Senate Democrats is do they have the gumption not to keep rewarding a Senator with a chairmanship who supported the Republican candidate for President?