Dodd Rallies for Lieberman

Posted November 13, 2008 at 2:01pm

Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) acknowledged today that he is working behind the scenes to broker a deal that would keep his home-state colleague, Sen. Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.), in the Democratic Conference and possibly avoid taking away Lieberman’s chairmanship of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs panel.

“I think most of my colleagues would like to create an opportunity for Joe, if Joe wants to come back and be a part of the Democratic caucus, and I welcome that. And if he wants to be supportive of the Obama administration and their needs, and so there is conversation going on over how to accommodate that if we can,” Dodd told reporters after chairing a Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs hearing.

He added, “I’m working with the leaders and others and Joe to see if we can’t come to some agreement or understanding that would allow Joe to come back to our caucus to be an active member.”

Dodd has been working with Lieberman allies such as Sens. Ken Salazar (D-Colo.), Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) to find a way to keep Lieberman in the caucus while assuaging the anger of fellow Democrats who bristled at his endorsement of Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) and his aggressive criticism of President-elect Barack Obama’s candidacy.

Dodd has not taken an official position on whether Lieberman should keep his chairmanship.

Lieberman’s fate is unclear.

A few Democratic Senators said today that they want Lieberman to answer questions about his conduct during the election as well as whether he will support the Obama administration. Several said they are particularly concerned about having an Obama critic chair the panel in charge of overseeing a portion of the new administration. A vote of the entire Democratic Conference is expected Tuesday.

“We want to ask Sen. Lieberman some real questions about his support for this [Obama] administration before we make a decision,” Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said. “I want to know what he has to say about Obama’s leadership and Obama’s agenda on everything from domestic and national security.” Brown he would make his decision based on Lieberman’s answers.

Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) indicated that he, too, wanted to hear Lieberman’s answer to questions about how he would approach his committee’s oversight role. Casey said he was upset with Lieberman’s conduct during the election, but Senate Democrats should give the matter thought before deciding to punish Lieberman.

“I think we’ve got to consider what’s best for the country. We can’t just think in partisan terms,” Casey said.

But Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) said he thought the party should give Lieberman a chance to apologize and another shot at being a loyal member of the caucus before stripping him of his chairmanship.

“Why not try reconciliation first and see if that works. We can always resort to revenge later,” Bayh said. “We can always remove a committee chairman. So if he begins to behave in ways that are inappropriately hostile to the [Obama] administration, that can always be stopped.”

But Bayh said Lieberman needs to be contrite on Tuesday.

“I think it has to start with him sincerely telling people that he understands why some of us would be offended by some of the things that he said,” Bayh said. “I think he crossed some important lines.”

Bayh said he was particularly struck by comments Lieberman made that appeared to question Obama’s patriotism.

If Lieberman retains the Homeland Security chairmanship, Democratic aides have said it’s possible that Lieberman could be stripped of his membership on either the Armed Services or Environment and Public Works panels. He also could lose his chairmanship of subcommittees on those panels.

Lieberman reached out to Obama recently but has yet to get in touch with him. “A congratulatory call from Sen. Lieberman has been initiated, but they have not yet spoken,” one Senate aide said.

Obama has been urging Democratic Senators to do what they can to keep Lieberman in the caucus.