Still, even Liebermans opponents said they do not want to see him punished so severely that he either switches to the Republican Party or resigns his seat and is replaced by a Republican appointed by Connecticut Gov. Jodi Rell (R).
There is value in having Joe Lieberman in the caucus, said one Senate Democratic aide, whose boss has been angry with Liebermans actions on the campaign trail. The aide explained that the extra Democratic vote would be important on tight votes needed to overcome GOP filibusters. Plus, having more Senators in the Democratic caucus could aid Democrats in increasing their majorities on all Senate committees.
Lieberman is expected to argue that Democrats would not have been in the majority for the past two years if it had not been for his decision to continue caucusing with them after he lost his primary in 2006 but won re-election as an Independent. Democrats have ruled the Senate with a 51-49 margin during the 110th Congress. If Lieberman had switched parties, Republicans would have controlled an evenly divided Senate by virtue of the vote of Vice President Dick Cheney.
Lieberman is also expected to remind Democrats that he has voted with them on nearly every major procedural vote during the 110th and that he only broke with them on votes to end the war in Iraq. Unlike many in the Democratic caucus, Lieberman has been a staunch defender of the Iraq War.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) met with Lieberman on Nov. 6 and offered to give him the chairmanship of a less prestigious committee, but he made it clear at that time that Lieberman would likely have to give up Homeland Security. Lieberman flatly rejected that offer but did not rule out accepting some other compromise.
Reid later said he would leave it up to the entire Democratic caucus. It was unclear as of press time whether Lieberman is comfortable with the current leadership proposal. His office had no comment.
Anything short of stripping Lieberman of the Homeland Security gavel is likely to inflame passions on the left, particularly among liberal bloggers who have led the charge against the Independent Democrat.
Of the leadership proposal, the Senate Democratic aide said, I dont know if its enough for the net roots, but its enough to say we stood up as Democrats against Liebermans actions.
Taking the subcommittee on global warming away from Lieberman may be seen as a stinging rebuke, given that he used the panel to push himself to the forefront of the climate change debate in the Senate earlier this year. However, Environment and Public Works Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) plans to deal with climate change legislation at the full committee level next year. So Lieberman may not lose much if his colleagues vote to strip him of that plum assignment.
This is real consequence for Lieberman. He has a long environmental record and cares a great deal about these issues, the Senate Democratic aide said.
Although Lieberman also chairs the Armed Services Subcommittee on Airland, it appeared that gavel was secure.