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Lieberman May Survive With Slap on the Wrist

When Senate Democrats meet Tuesday to decide Sen. Joe Lieberman’s (ID-Conn.) fate, leaders are expected to propose that he keep his gavel at the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee but lose his Environment and Public Works subcommittee chairmanship.

Senate Democratic sources cautioned that the proposal is intended to serve as a starting point for the discussion over whether Lieberman should be punished for his aggressive criticism of President-elect Barack Obama’s candidacy, as well as his endorsement of Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain (Ariz.). Those sources said the proposal could change based on what Lieberman says to the Conference and how Senators react to both his explanation for his actions and the proposal itself.

Either way, Senate Democrats are expected to vote on whether to sanction Lieberman for his disloyalty.

Lieberman chairs the Private Sector and Consumer Solutions to Global Warming and Wildlife Protection subcommittee. Even if he were to lose the gavel, however, he is expected to retain his seniority on the full committee.

Lieberman also chairs the Armed Services Subcommittee on Airland. There had been speculation that he might also lose that chairmanship, but that option appears to be off the table for now.

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, which means Lieberman may not lose much even if his colleagues vote to strip him of that plum assignment.

Both Lieberman’s and Majority Leader Harry Reid's (D-Nev.) offices had no comment.

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