Regardless of whether or not there's actually a lame duck Congressional session next week -- and that now looks to be in some doubt -- the House and Senate Democratic Caucuses will likely meet to settle some important housekeeping business for the upcoming 111th Congress. Newly elected Members and Senators will be in town to start the work of their transition into office (literally, since they'll have to participate in the office space allocation pool), to organize as a class, and to integrate themselves into the caucuses of their respective houses.
And those caucuses will begin the business of allocating committee assignments and chairmanships, electing new leaders to vacated positions (like Chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, most recently held by incoming White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel).
So no matter how you may feel about the relative importance of issues like this, or specifically the issue of whether or not Joe Lieberman ought to be allowed to keep his chairmanship of the Senate Homeland Security Committee (answer: no), the fact is that that's what's going to be on the agenda next week when the Democratic Senators of the 111th Congress meet.
But what of the drive for 60 Democrats, and the need for a "filibuster-proof" majority? Keep in mind that cloture votes don't always break down on strictly partisan lines, though partisan voting is surely more common these days than ever before. Still, the underlying issue will be most determinative of what happens at the margins, and that's where these fights will be settled. Depending on what the issue is, the 60th vote is as likely to come from one of the few remaining "moderate" Republicans, or, frankly, is as likely to be lost with a defecting conservative Democrat, as it is to be in Joe Lieberman's hands. And if he's going to vote against his own principles in order to exact revenge for losing a gavel he never used to any effect in the first place, well, let's get that out in the open sooner rather than later. How long should the United States Senate have to walk on eggshells for someone so flaky and flighty? The bottom line is that having 60 votes technically sitting within the Democratic Caucus doesn't guarantee anything on any particular vote, and it simply can't be thought of in that way, as nice as it would be to wish for.
On the front lines of the decision making process are, as we discussed the other day, the members of the Steering and Outreach Committee, who generally hash out the issues of committee assignments and leadership. But on an issue this touchy, they may throw it to a vote of the entire Senate Democratic Caucus, and that means every Democratic Senator serving in the new Congress will have a vote in the matter. So if you've got one or more of those, you're gonna want to call them and let them know how you feel about Lieberman being allowed to keep a leadership position among Democrats. And that's what it is, a committee chairmanship. It's a leadership position. Something you earn and keep based not just on your ability not to get your ass kicked out of the Senate by your constituents, but by pulling for the team. And -- it used to go without saying -- not pulling for the other team.
Or at least it used to be. These days, it appears, there are a number of Democratic Senators who don't mind if you spit in their faces and try to undermine everything they've been working for. So you might also want to find out if one of those types is representing you. Call and find out, and let us know whether your Democratic Senator(s) enjoy humiliation.
Because if you ask me -- and if you've read this far, it's too late not to pretend you weren't going to -- the past few years have seen us forced to eat shit on torture, forced to eat shit on FISA, forced to eat shit on drilling, forced to eat shit on telecom immunity, forced to eat shit on subpoenas, and forced to eat shit on multiple Iraq supplementals.
And each individual serving of shit was swallowed with a smile and the promise that it was all worth it in order to win back the White House.
Remind me again where Mr. "With Us on Everything But the War" was on that score?
We all chewed broken glass for two years to get this job done, and Joe
Lieberman slashed our tires, poured sugar in our gas tanks, and
generally took every opportunity he could to fart in the Big Tent he
now prays will shelter him.
Woe fucking betide any Senator who votes to save this saboteur.
But hey, that's just me, gettin' my Rahm on. All the cool kids are doing it.
Take a breath, think non-profane thoughts insofar as you are able, and call. The Capitol Switchboard -- (202) 224-3121, will connect you to any sitting Senator's office. Incoming Senators we'll have to find out about, and if you happen to know, share that with us.
And if you actually get a response, share that with us, too.
Be polite. Ranting is one thing on the blogs, but the staffers answering the phones haven't done anything wrong. But when I discuss this, I tend to frame it in terms of chairmanships being for Senators who've done the hard work of party-building, and who have pulled their weight on the campaign trail, and on the tough votes that people sometimes fear will put them at risk in their next election, but are nonetheless part of the heavy lifting of carrying forward the Democratic agenda.
Most of the people on the other ends of those phone lines will fit that bill. So why should Lieberman -- who not only doesn't fit that bill, but did his best (such as it was) to undermine all the work of the people you're calling -- be rewarded with the same good standing as they get, and a plum committee chair to boot?
Let your Democratic Senators know you honor their hard work, and that if they're proud of what they've done, you tell them it's OK to take pride in it, and to claim what's rightfully theirs: a place in line ahead of Joe Lieberman, as members in good standing of the Senate Democratic Caucus.
They've earned it. Why should they give it away?
UPDATE: The HuffPo reports:
President-elect Barack Obama has informed party officials that he wants Joe Lieberman to continue caucusing with the Democrats in the 111th Congress, Senate aides tell the Huffington Post.
Obama's decision could tie the hands of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who has been negotiating to remove Lieberman as chair of the Homeland Security and Government Reform committee while keeping him within the caucus. Lieberman has insisted that he will split from the Democrats if his homeland security position is stripped.
UPDATE II: I see no incompatibility here. The decision on the chairmanship belongs to the members of the Senate Democratic Caucus for the 111th Congress and no one else. Lieberman loses. After that, if he wants to disappoint Obama by being a crybaby and leaving the caucus, that's on him.
Therefore, please enjoy this handy widget, courtesy of our friends at FireDogLake. It makes contacting your Democratic Senators easier than you could have dreamed. Click, enter your phone number, and you'll get patched through without even having to dial.
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