Sen. Joe Lieberman has not made many friends in the past few years. The retiring Independent has frustrated some Democrats recently by meeting with Republican candidates for his Senate seat, as well as GOP presidential contenders. Because the party holds such a tenuous majority in the chamber, some feel they cant punish him.
The Senator said neither Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) nor other Democrats have complained to him about his recent votes or communications with GOP Senate candidates. Lieberman said he and Reid remain on very good terms.
But he otherwise made it clear that he has no intention of backing off, even if that irks his Democratic colleagues.
“It’s who I am and also what I believe is my responsibility, which is to do what I think is right,” Lieberman said. “I know in an age of intense partisanship I’m unusual, but that’s just the way it is.”
Lieberman was re-elected in 2006 on his own “Independent Democrat” ticket after losing the Democratic primary. In that race, some of his Senate colleagues supported the winner, Ned Lamont, who campaigned against Lieberman because of his support for the Iraq War. The experience appeared to make Lieberman feel that he needn’t be as loyal to the party as he had been in the past, and consequently, it made him less likely to win re-election in 2012. After four terms in the Senate and a historic stint as the party’s 2000 nominee for vice president, he announced in January that he would retire.
Of all the sins against his party, the greatest was probably his decision to endorse Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) for president in 2008 and to campaign aggressively on his behalf. That led some Democrats to call for his ouster as Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs chairman.
But at the urging of Obama and Reid, Lieberman and Senate Democrats reconciled, negotiating a mutually agreed-upon deal that stripped the Connecticut Member of his seat on the Environment and Public Works Committee. They allowed him to maintain his chairmanship of the Homeland Security panel as well as his leadership of an Armed Services subcommittee.
Lieberman said at the time that the Conference would not “regret” the decision, while Senate Democrats made it clear that they expected Lieberman to be loyal and support their agenda.
The honeymoon was short. Lieberman threatened to filibuster elements of Obama’s health care reform proposal championed by the Senate’s more liberal Democrats — opposition that was considered a serious impediment to the bill’s passage at the time. However, changes were made that gained his vote for the final version of the bill. Recently, his aggressive opposition to top Democratic initiatives has resurfaced.
He has been notably critical of most aspects of the president’s $447 billion jobs plan and referred to Friday’s announcement from Obama that all American troops will leave Iraq by year’s end as “a statement of failure, not success” that could endanger what the U.S. has achieved during the war. Additionally, he has declined to commit to support Obama’s re-election or the party’s eventual nominee for his Senate seat.
Democrats are none too pleased.
“At this point, it’s safe to say many in the Democratic caucus see Sen. Lieberman as a mosquito,” said Jimmy Williams, a former aide to Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.). “The bad news is he has sucked enough blood from both sides of the aisle. The good news is winter is coming, meaning his time in the Senate will thankfully come to an end.”
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.