Monday, November 17, 2008

lieberman's fate: a preliminary headcount

tomorrow decides the fates of two senators, one a professed democrat, the other a republican. while ted stevens faces certain expulsion from the senate for his conviction on corruption charges, joe lieberman's fate seems less clear.

that the leadership wants to take joe's chairs from him seems clear. the chairs are joe's by default, if he wants them, which is what this whole hubbub's about. if the senate does nothing, he gets to keep them. no vote is required. this entire discussion would be moot. so by staging a vote, reid is making his intentions clear about removing joe.

like the president-elect, reid prefers little drama, which is why he privately offered joe lesser seats on other committees as a consolation prize for going gently into the night and not making a stink, especially in front of any cameras:

"if they aren't able to work something out satisfactorily, there will be a vote in the caucus." "that's lieberman's decision."

unfortunately, joe loves drama, especially when he's the center of it, so joe sent out an aide to the hartford courant to let everyone know not only that reid's deal was "unacceptable" but also to drop a none-too-subtle threat:

"sen. lieberman prefers to remain in the democratic caucus, however, he believes he should remain as chairman of the homeland security committee."

... a threat punctuated with joe's characteristic sanctimony:

[joe] "thinks that political retribution should not go ahead of homeland security."

joe lieberman: the sine qua non of homeland security. reading that really must have made harry very happy.

so joe's thrown down his gauntlet and forced reid's hand. it's all or nothing now.

harry, as promised, has thrown the question to the caucus. while the ballot is secret and makes each member's vote both unpredictable and unverifiable, i believe harry reid is no complete buffoon. every lawyer knows better than to ask a witness a question the lawyer himself doesn't already know the answer to. reid would have to be completely tone-deaf to his colleagues to stage a vote he knows he can't win. joe has few friends on his side of the aisle. out of 53 eligible votes, he needs 27. there will be no tie.

still, the exact nature of the vote remains up in the air:

still, as of now, it's still not precisely clear what exactly reid will throw over to his caucus to vote on tomorrow. last week leadership aides were adamant that the vote would be over his committee chairmanship. but it's now unclear whether reid will follow through on this specific vote or whether he'll ask the dem caucus to vote on a compromise or a lesser punishment.

but if the vote becomes a straightforward question of "does joe keep his chairs?", then here are the tentative votes in reid's corner:

1) the leadership (4):

reid: leading the move to dethrone joe

dorgan: "as a chairman of one of our significant committees in the senate, not just going off and supporting a presidential candidate of the other side but also criticizing the candidate on our side, and also involving himself in a couple of senate races on the other side. the question is, is that acceptable? the answer is no."

durbin* and schumer: "interestingly, people like dick durbin who is the first democrat in the senate — the first senator, and from Illinois, to support barack obama — is really loaded for bear about lieberman, he wants to kick lieberman off that chairmanship. chuck schumer, the head of the campaign committee likewise."

*durbin's reportedly been making noises in lieberman's favor:

durbin: [senate democrats should be] "gracious in victory" [toward lieberman]. "despite what sen. lieberman did in campaigning for sen. mccain, speaking at the republican convention, he has voted with the democrats an overwhelming percentage of the time."

... but has said nothing specific about his chair.

2) other vocal reid supporters (3):

leahy: "i'm one who does not feel that somebody should be rewarded with a major chairmanship after doing what he did." "i would feel that had i done something similar, that i would not be chairman of the senate judiciary committee in the next congress."

sanders*: "to reward senator lieberman with a major committee chairmanship would be a slap in the face of millions of americans who worked tirelessly for barack obama and who want to see real change in our country."

*sanders might not be allowed to vote.

carper: "there need to be consequences, and they cannot be insignificant." "many of my colleagues … are very angry with his criticism of sen. obama."

carper's statement is significant since he was reportedly one of four democrats lobbying on lieberman's behalf. i guess he heard something that changed his mind.

3) i think many of those who backed ned lamont against lieberman will likely back reid (16):

akaka*, boxer, cantwell, clinton, feingold, feinstein, harkin, kennedy, kerry, kohl, menendez, murray, stabenow, reed, rockefeller, wyden

*since akaka is reportedly in line for joe's chair, i think reid can count on his vote.

4) lastly, i think reid can count on the new incoming comfirmed members (3):

merkley, udall, udall

meanwhile, in joe's corner we have:

1) the following vocal supporters (2):

bayh*: "i think reconciliation is in order, not revenge or retribution." "i think we had to just let bygones be bygones."

*bayh was a lamont supporter.

dodd: [obama has] "talked about reconciliation, healing, bringing people together. i don't think he'd necessarily want to spend the first month of this president-elect period, this transition period, talking about a senate seat, particularly if someone is willing to come forward and is willing to be a member of your family in the caucus in that sense."

2) others reportedly making calls for lieberman (2):

salazar, nelson

3) others who supported lieberman against lamont (3):

inouye, landrieu, pryor

so the tentative vote count stands at reid (26), lieberman (7), unaccounted for (20).

even with a lot of unaccounted votes, the "temperature", as carper put it, is very chill towards joe. how many can he realistically add to his seven? not enough, i think.

i think he's gonna lose that chair.

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