Since 2001, Joe Lieberman has been a thorn in the side of Democrats, beginning with his criticism of Al Gore and running right through his endorsement of John McCain. When told by the party that his services were no longer required, he ran the ultimate "Democrat for a Day" campaign and used Republican votes to retain his Senate seat. He exploited the need for 51 votes in the Senate to hold on to his chairmanship of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
Like Zell Miller, he has trashed his own legacy as a Democrat in his zeal to kick the party while it was down and kiss up to power.
The NYT has an article: Among Democrats’ Leadership Questions: What to Do With Lieberman? It lays the problem out fairly well:
With the Democrats now guaranteed to hold at least 56 seats without Mr. Lieberman, he could be stripped of his chairmanship of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, a move that could prompt him to join the Republicans.
The majority leader, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, met with Mr. Lieberman for a half-hour Thursday and issued a terse statement saying no decisions had been made. Aides, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said Mr. Reid had suggested that Mr. Lieberman relinquish his chairmanship in exchange for a less prominent position.
At a brief news conference after the meeting, Mr. Lieberman promised to support President-elect Barack Obama, but he did not disclose his plans and did not take questions.
Many Democrats say Mr. Lieberman had crossed a line not only by endorsing Mr. McCain, his longtime friend, but also serving as one of his closest advisers and by sharply questioning Mr. Obama’s qualifications to be president. Some Senate Democrats and aides say it is unthinkable to let Mr. Lieberman head a committee that will conduct oversight of the Obama administration.
Mr. Reid restated the dismay felt by many Democrats. “While I understand that Senator Lieberman has voted with Democrats a majority of the time, his comments and actions have raised serious concerns among many in our caucus,” he said.
The problem is not, as you might think, with Lieberman. He has made his positions perfectly clear over the years. We know where he stands and what he will do. It is not even, as the article alludes, that he would be some kind of internal enemy to the Obama administration. (Side note - this story makes me chuckle as Obama was perpetually villified in the Left Blogosphere as being an ally and enabler of Lieberman, with people pointing to his reluctance to campaign for Ned Lamont as proof of his real allegiance.)
The problem is whether or not the Democrats will act like a party and will use power to punish those who have harmed them now that they have the political upper hand. The question is party discipline and sending out an unequivocal message that those who are not on board are out.
Unless Harry Reid was telling Lieberman to direct his staff to hand over materials relating to all of his committee positions, there was nothing to discuss. Lieberman does not get to choose whether he will relinquish his post and he should not get any lesser position. His leverage is gone. He should be unceremoniously dumped from all committees and made into a political pariah.
That's how politics is played.
If Joe wants to caucus with the Democrats, that's nice. Let him sit in the back and fume. If he wants to stomp off and caucus with the Republicans, that's nice too. He can go change his party affiliation while he's at it and stop the charade. The Democrats have a solid majority without him and need to look ahead to 2010 for the next set of senators to put them comfortably beyond the filibuster threat.
But make no mistake that the test here is of Harry Reid and the Democratic leadership. If they will not stand up to Lieberman, I think we can see where the legislative agenda is going.