What Do We Do About Joe?

I’ve been critical of Joe Lieberman lately between his campaigning with Republicans and making it clear he would not support Democrats running for Congress. Where I drew the line was in using his activities as reason to call on Harry Reid to strip Joe Lieberman of his seniority or party membership as many are.

I have mixed feelings on this. On the one hand Lieberman is clearly the Republican-preferred candidate, and his campaign may very well increase the chances for Republican Congressional victories in Connecticut. There’s also the issues I disagree with him on, from Iraq to the manner in which his religious views influence political decisions. However, I would sure hate to find ourselves in a situation where Republicans maintain control of the Senate by one vote. That would be particularly frustrating if that vote came from Joe Lieberman voting Republican due to being kicked out by the Democrats. We can be certain that the Republicans will never kick Lincoln Chafee out of the party if elected, even if he were to wind up in a situation analogous to Lieberman’s.

We could argue endlessly about what the right course is, and there are valid arguments for each side. Fortunately Bob Geiger has given us a good excuse to ignore this issue and concentrate on things which really matter. He explains why, under the Senate’s rules, it is very unlikely action will be taken against Lieberman:

The membership in Senate committees is decided at the start of every Congress with a haggled-out thing called an “organizing resolution.” The entire Senate votes on it and it usually passes by unanimous consent. Organizing resolutions can also happen when party shake-ups occur in the middle of a Congress, like when Vermont’s Jim Jeffords bolted from the GOP in 2001.

To give Joe his well-deserved comeuppance by taking him off committees and effectively making him the most junior member of the Senate, Reid would have to formally propose an amendment to the current organizing resolution, manage to get it to a vote and then get every Democrat and a handful of Republicans to vote for a new committee organization sans Lieberman. If Majority Leader Bill Frist decided to filibuster Reid’s action, 60 votes would be required to keep it alive.

Based on that procedural construct, Harry Reid can’t just unilaterally, or even by a closed vote of the Democratic caucus, strip Lieberman of his committee assignments.

This still leaves the door open to strip Lieberman of his seniority in the next Congress. My bet is that Harry Reid will wait until it is time to make this decision, and he knows whether Lieberman has even been reelected and how much his vote matters. No amount of calls and letters from angry bloggers is likely to change that.Geiger also adds one additional argument for last week’s event at the Groton sub base to be considered a campaign event. Rob Simmons is promoting the meeting on his campaign site. I find it quite naive to claim that this was anything other than a thinly veiled campaign event. Lieberman’s statements the next day make it even more difficult to ignore the manner in which he has become the de facto Republican candidate.

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