Tomorrow, the Senate Democratic caucus will vote—via secret ballot—on whether or not Sen. Joe Lieberman will remain as the Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee.
Personally, I don’t have a problem with the fact that Lieberman disagrees with Barack Obama and Senate Democrats on some issues; there are plenty of disagreements among Democrats on a variety of issues. We don’t march in lockstep.
I don’t even have a problem with Lieberman supporting John McCain for president—like every citizen, Lieberman has the right to support whoever he wants. And Obama himself has come out and said he doesn’t hold any grudges against Lieberman over it; if he doesn’t, neither do I.
But I’m still hoping Lieberman loses his gavel. Here’s why:
- Joe Lieberman’s conduct was unbecoming of a Senate chairman.
Joe Lieberman’s behavior during the presidential campaign was unbecoming of his prestigious chairmanship. He didn’t just criticize Obama’s policies; Lieberman launched dishonest, over-the top attacks on Obama himself. Lieberman portrayed Obama as a Marxist and a socialist, he compared Obama to Herbert Hoover and he lied about the impact of Obama’s tax policies.
Considering that Lieberman’s committee is responsible for oversight of the executive branch, it’s important the chairman not be prone to dishonesty and hyperbole.
Also unbecoming of the chairmanship is the fact that, ever since he took the gavel, Joe Lieberman hasn’t held one substantive hearing on the Bush administration’s conduct (despite an embarrassment of riches). The chairman of that committee should perform vigorous, thorough oversight no matter who is in the White House or what issues they may or may not agree on. This dereliction of duty alone is nearly enough to put someone else at the helm of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee.
- Joe Lieberman has some major conflicts of interest.
It’s no secret Joe Lieberman wants to move up from the Senate. He was a vice presidential candidate in 2000 and a presidential candidate in 2004. He was considered as John McCain’s running mate this year and, had McCain won, he would have almost certainly been tapped for a cabinet post.
But Barack Obama won the election, which poses a problem when you consider that Lieberman’s committee is responsible for providing oversight on the president. Lieberman could spend the next four years chasing ridiculous right-wing charges against Obama, miring the White House in never-ending frivolous investigations.
If he gets to keep his gavel, Lieberman could go a long way toward harming Obama’s presidency, thus making it easier for a Republican to win in 2012. Then, once again, Lieberman can endorse and campaign for the Republican in the hopes of getting a cabinet appointment (or some other lucrative political reward).
Don’t get me wrong—no matter who chairs that committee there will be some kind of political conflict. But the chairperson of that committee should be as neutral and judicious as possible; he/she shouldn’t be a strong partisan prone to taking staunch political positions. Lieberman clearly doesn’t fit that mold–the potential for him to abuse his gavel is extremely high.
This isn’t about revenge. It’s not about retribution. It’s about both upholding the integrity of the Senate and ensuring that Congress provides strict oversight of the White House without falling prey to frivolous investigations of trumped-up charges.
Pat Leahy and Bernie Sanders have already called for Lieberman to be dumped. Byron Dorgan sounds like he’s on board, too. These aren’t partisan or vindictive men; they simply understand what’s at stake here, and they know why Lieberman is no longer fit to serve as chairman.
UPDATE: Tom Carper, who served as the Delaware campaign chairman for Lieberman’s 2004 presidential bid, also sounds like he’s on board.
UPDATE II: According to Politico, the vote will be held at 9:30 tomorrow morning.
UPDATE III: Multiple outlets are reporting that a deal has been struck that is extremely favorable to Lieberman:
Senate Democrats appear willing to let Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Connecticut, keep his powerful Homeland Security Committee chairmanship, even though he campaigned vigorously for Sen. John McCain’s White House bid, two sources told CNN Monday.
But the veteran lawmaker will, according to the sources, lose a less prominent chairmanship of a subcommittee on the Environment and Public Works Committee.
Lieberman and several other senators are expected to make presentations about Lieberman’s behavior during the campaign. Several senators who are angry with Lieberman told CNN they would question Lieberman in detail about what he said and why when he was campaigning for Republican nominee McCain.
Of course, nothing is set in stone until the votes are cast and counted. I look forward to the questioning of Lieberman by his peers, though–honesty and accountability in government is always a good thing.