Joe Lieberman has been a truly consummate schmuck over the past two years, transmogrifying from liberal-hawk cum Independent to fear mongering demagogue. Now that his McCain gambit has failed and Democrats possess a majority in the Senate without him, there’s the question of what to do with Droopy Joe. He alleges he wants to stay in the Democrat’s caucus, but what this really means holding on his committee chairmanship. A lot of people have suggested stripping him of his chairmanship of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs (I agree), so it’s worth looking into why doing so wouldn’t simply be a petty punitive measure:
The United States Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs has jurisdiction over matters related to the Department of Homeland Security and other homeland security concerns, as well as the functioning of the government itself, including the National Archives, budget and accounting measures other than appropriations, the Census, the federal civil service, the affairs of the District of Columbia, and the United States Postal Service. The committee’s name was formerly the United States Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs, prior to homeland security being added to its responsibilities.
It sounds like a bunch of mumbo-jumbo, but the key point is that the Committee has oversight powers over the Executive branch. Steve Benen theorizes:
As chairman of this committee for the last two years, Lieberman decided not to pursue any accusations of wrongdoing against the Bush administration. Lieberman’s House counterpart — Rep. Henry Waxman’s Oversight Committee — was a vigilant watchdog, holding hearings, issuing subpoenas, and launching multiple investigations. Lieberman preferred to let his committee do no real work at all. It was arguably the most pathetic display of this Congress.
And yet, now Lieberman acts as if keeping this chairmanship is the single most important part of his public life. Why would he be so desperate to keep the gavel of a committee he hasn’t used? I’ll let you in on a secret: he wants to start using the power of this committee against Obama.
It seems like there’s something to that, but I’m more inclined to agree with Ezra Klein:
Rather, Lieberman wants to keep his committee as a hedge against retribution. So long as he controls Governmental Affairs, he’s not the sort of guy Democrats want on a warpath against them. Elsewhere, they can take him seriously, or screw him over, largely as they please, which most would probably find a preferable alternative. But I basically side with the “kick him out” folks.
This should be blisteringly obvious to Harry Reid and I think it’s the more plausible explanation. Since it’s not likely impossible that the Democrats will get to 59 seats (though still a possibility), the demand for Lieberman is way down almost nil, and he’s really in no situation to be on the offensive. Even if Al Franken and Jim Martin manage to pull of victories 59 seats were still possible, the notion that 60 Democrats with Lieberman will prove an unshakable bloc is a bit fallacious, so there’s simply no reason to risk it: get rid of Joe.