Lieber­man will lead home­land com­mit­tee

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Au­drey Hud­son

Sen. Joe Lieber­man, who switched his party af­fil­i­a­tion to win re-elec­tion, on Nov. 14 was named in­com­ing chair­man of the Home­land Se­cu­rity and Gov­ern­men­tal Af­fairs Com­mit­tee.

Mr. Lieber­man ran as an in­de­pen­dent af­ter he was de­feated this sum­mer in Con­necti­cut’s Demo­cratic pri­mary. He went on to win the Se­nate seat and pledged to cau­cus with the Democrats.

Democrats have ques­tioned whether Mr. Lieber­man, who has been a sup­porter of the war in Iraq, would be tough enough on the Repub­li­can ad­min­is­tra­tion if he chaired the com­mit­tee. Sen. Frank R. Laut­en­berg, New Jer­sey Demo­crat, pub­licly dis­cussed mak­ing a chal­lenge for the chair­man­ship be­fore the elec­tion.

“I do feel that I’m be­holden to no par­tic­u­lar po­lit­i­cal group, that my re­spon­si­bil­ity is to the peo­ple of Con­necti­cut and my own con­science,” Mr. Lieber­man told the As­so­ci­ated Press. “What this means will be de­fined as we go along.

“I’m not go­ing to threaten on ev­ery is­sue I’m in­ter­ested in to leave the cau­cus.”

With a one-seat edge to con­trol the Se­nate, Democrats did not risk an­ger­ing Mr. Lieber­man, who told “Meet the Press” on Nov. 12 that he would not rule out mak­ing a re­peat of the 2001 party switch of Ver­mont Sen. James M. Jef­fords, who aban­doned Repub­li­cans and switched to be an in­de­pen­dent.

Cau­cus­ing with Democrats and end­ing Repub­li­can con­trol earned Mr. Jef­fords the chair­man­ship of the En­vi­ron­ment and Pub­lic Works Com­mit­tee.

“I’m not rul­ing it out, but I hope I don’t get to that point,” Mr. Lieber­man told “Meet the Press.”

“And I must say — and with all re­spect to the Repub­li­cans who sup­ported me in Con­necti­cut — no­body ever said, ‘We’re do­ing this be­cause we want you to switch over. We want you to do what you think is right and good for our state and coun­try,’ and I ap­pre­ci­ate that,” Mr. Lieber­man said.

Repub­li­cans made no ef­forts to re­cruit Mr. Lieber­man to cau­cus with them to re­gain con­trol of the Se­nate.

“If he were younger like Phil Gramm when he switched, there could be a chance,” said a Repub­li­can lead­er­ship aide who was in­volved in pre­vi­ous con­gres­sional party switches.

How­ever, if the Democrats had de­nied him the chair­man­ship, “all bets are off,” the aide said.

Mr. Lieber­man’s loy­alty to the Demo­cratic Party reaches be­yond some of his col­leagues, who made sig­nif­i­cant fi­nan­cial con­tri­bu­tions to his chal­lenger, Ned La­mont.

Demo­cratic Sens. Bar­bara Boxer of Cal­i­for­nia, Russ Fein­gold of Wis­con­sin and Ed­ward M. Kennedy of Mas­sachusetts each gave Mr. La­mont $5,000.

Sen. Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton of New York con­trib­uted $5,000 to Mr. La­mont, but she was Mr. Lieber­man’s largest con­trib­u­tor of any sit­ting Demo­cratic sen­a­tor, giv­ing him $10,000.

Sen. Barack Obama of Illi­nois gave the Demo­cratic chal­lenger $5,000, but he also gave Mr. Lieber­man $4,200. In­com­ing Ma­jor­ity Leader Harry Reid of Ne­vada split the dif­fer­ence and gave both can­di­dates $5,000.

Katie Falkenberg / The Wash­ing­ton Times

We al­ways liked you: With a nar­row ma­jor­ity, Se­nate Democrats need to stay on the good side of re­cently in­de­pen­dent Sen. Joe Lieber­man.

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