Dodd: Don't Punish Joe

Connecticut Senator Christopher Dodd is coming to the defense of Senator Joseph Liebermann as Democrats consider punishing Lieberman for backing his Republican pal John McCain for president.
Dodd is part of a group of several Democrats who are contacting their Senate colleagues to persuade them not to oust the Democrat-turned-independent from the party's caucus.

"Many Democrats, including Senator Dodd, are upset and disappointed in Senator Lieberman's presidential endorsement," Dodd spokesman Bryan DeAngelis said in a written statement Wednesday. "Senator Dodd is talking to Senator Lieberman and his colleagues in the hopes of finding a resolution that will allow Senator Lieberman to remain in the Democratic caucus and will not unfairly penalize the people of Connecticut for the choices of one of its representatives."

Lieberman angered many Democrats by supporting McCain and criticizing Obama during the presidential race. Lieberman spoke at the Republican National Convention and accompanied McCain on the campaign trail.

Democrats, including many liberal activists, are urging the party's caucus to strip Lieberman of his chairmanship of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee when caucus members meet on Capitol Hill next week. Dodd has not said whether he thinks Lieberman should lose his chairmanship.

Lesser punishments are also being considered involving Lieberman's committee and subcommittee posts.

Lieberman, who was Democrat Al Gore's running mate in 2000, was re-elected to the Senate from Connecticut in 2006 as an independent after losing the Democratic primary. He remains a registered Democrat and aligns himself with Senate Democrats.

Dodd supported Lieberman in the 2006 primary, but he and other leading Democrats backed primary winner Ned Lamont in the fall race. Dodd's move ruptured his longtime friendship with Lieberman and the two men have worked to repair their relations since then.

Lieberman has met with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, but there has been no word on whether Reid intends to try to oust Lieberman as chairman of the Homeland Security panel.

President-elect Barack Obama told Reid last week that expelling Lieberman from the Democratic caucus would hurt the message of bipartisanship and unity that he wants for his new administration.

The caucus is the meeting of all Senate Democrats and at the beginning of each Congress it chooses the body's leaders.

Lieberman's presence in the Democratic caucus was essential to the party's control of the Senate because he gave them a 51-49 edge over Republicans. But Democrats expanded their majority last Tuesday and no longer need Lieberman to control the chamber.

But Lieberman last week pledged to put partisan considerations aside and work with Obama.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky spoke to Lieberman last week about the possibility of Lieberman's joining the GOP caucus.

Despite splitting with most Democrats on the war in Iraq, Lieberman tends to vote with them on domestic issues such as health care, education and the environment.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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