- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Sen. Joe Lieberman, who switched his party affiliation to win re-election, yesterday 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 last week 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” Sunday 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.

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