- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Senate Democrats spared Sen. Joe Lieberman from a threatened expulsion from the caucus or loss of his committee chairmanship despite smoldering anger at his siding with Republicans during the presidential race and campaign against President-elect Barack Obama.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the caucus, which held a secret ballot to decide Mr. Lieberman’s fate, said a vast majority of the chamber’s Democrats voted to keep Mr. Lieberman as chairman of the Homeland Security Committee. He said they chose reconciliation over retribution.

“Mr. Lieberman is a Democrat and part of this caucus,” Mr. Reid told reporters in announcing the caucus decision.

Participants in the closed door caucus meeting, said Mr. Reid made a similar appeal in Mr. Lieberman’s defense by asking the senators to remember Mr. Lieberman’s long history and loyalty to the party, including providing the crucial vote to give Democrats the majority in the chamber for the last two years.

Mr. Lieberman, Connecticut independent, said the verdict was “fair and forward leaning” and reflected a spirit of unity that Democrats hoped would pervade the next Congress as it goes to work with the Obama administration.

“Hopefully it will go from our caucus across the aisle to the Republicans as well,” Mr. Lieberman said.

Earlier in the Republican caucus, Sen Ted Stevens emerged from a meeting of Senate Republicans where a vote on expelling him from the caucus was postponed but where his fate with the party still clouded the proceedings.

“I would not wish what I’m going through on anybody — not my worst enemy,” Mr. Stevens told reporters.

A federal jury convicted Mr Stevens in October of seven counts of falsifying Senate financial disclosure forms to conceal at least $250,000 of gifts and home renovation work, mostly coming from a former friend and oil company excutive.

The felony conviction prompted calls from fellow Republicans to expell Mr. Stevens from the caucus. But the vote was postponed pending final results from the election.

The Alaska Republican remains caught in a close reelection battle as the vote counting continues in his home state.

Mr. Stevens, the longest serving member in Senate history, turned 85 Tuesday and grimmaced at a reporter’s wishing him a happy birthday.

“I hope you have a better one,” he said before returning to the caucus meeting where Republicans were electing their leaders for the next session.

As for lingering ill will toward Mr. Lieberman from Democratic voters, Mr. Reid, Nevada Democrat, said he was happy with the outcome and had no apologies.

Sen. Carl Levin, Michigan Democrat, said he was satisfied that members such as himself who were “very angry” at Mr. Lieberman’s conduct during the campaign had a chance to confront the senator face to face. He stopped short of saying all was forgiven regarding Mr. Lieberman.

“He expressed his regret,” Mr. Levin said. “We are moving on.”

Mr. Lieberman, who ran for vice president with Al Gore on the Democratic ticket in 2000, was defeated in the 2006 Democratic senatorial primary by antiwar activist Ned Lamont. Mr. Lieberman had infuriated the party’s base with his strong support of the Bush administration’s handling of the Iraq war.

Running as an independent, Mr. Lieberman defeated Mr. Lamont in the general election to retain his seat. Although formally listed as an “Independent-Democrat,” he continued to caucus with Senate Democrats and provided the critical vote giving the party the majority in the closely-divided Senate.

Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, Maryland Democrat, said after the caucus that President-elect Barack Obama “set the tone” for the caucus debate over Mr. Lieberman’s fate. Mr. Obama said the party should not “hold a grudge” against the Connecticut lawmaker, despite his endorsement of rival Sen. John McCain in the presidential election and his prime-time address to the Republican National Convention this summer.

Mr. Cardin said there was no discussion inside the Democratic ranks of ousting Mr. Lieberman from the party.

“There was not a member of the caucus who wanted him to leave,” he said. “It was all a question of the chairmanships.”

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