Lieberman Whip Counting

by: Chris Bowers

Tue Nov 11, 2008 at 14:00

Quite a few different interpretations of Obama's statement on Lieberman are floating around. Josh Orton's reading is best supported by the actual text, and also by Josh's experience in Reid's office. Either way, the statement is made, can't be unmade, and it is time to move on with our efforts to keep Lieberman out of the chairmanship.

The vote on Lieberman's chairmanship is only seven days away. As such, it's time for some whip counting. First, let's at least count how many are needed to win:

  • There are currently 49 Democrats in the Senate right now.
  • Sanders and Lieberman do not vote on the chairmanships, from my understanding. So, the total stays at 49.
  • The six incoming Democrats who have been confirmed as winners in 2008--Merkley, Mark Udall and Tom Udall--will get to vote. The three candidates whose campaigns have yet to be decided--Begich, Franken and Martin-do not participate. This increases the total to 55.
  • Neither Biden nor Obama, nor their replacements, will be around for the November 18th vote. So, subtract two, and we are at 53.
  • 27 votes are needed to win.

In the extended entry, I discuss how the votes will likely break.

Chris Bowers :: Lieberman Whip Counting
Twenty-seven votes to win, but what are the various camps?

  • Six members of the Senate--Carper, Inouye, Landrieu, Nelson, Pryor and Salazar--publicly backed Lieberman over Democratic nominee Ned Lamont two years ago. As such, it is safe to mark these six in Lieberman's column. They all backed Joe running against a Democrat once before, so why would this be any different?
  • Evan Bayh (a former DLC chair who was eyeing a Presidential bid back in 2006) and Chris Dodd (also from Connecticut) have come out in support of Lieberman. This brings Lieberman's total to eight.
  • Howard Fineman's report that Durbin and Schumer are opposed to Lieberman keeping the Homeland Security Chairmanship. While this technically only means two votes against Lieberman, Durbin is #2 in the Senate, and has close ties to Obama. Schumer is the DSCC chair who has overseen the first election of fifteen of the Democratic Senators who will be at the meeting. Those fifteen Senators also won't appreciate Lieberman running against Democrats in 2006 and 2008, since they were all elected in those two years. That is an awful lot of support cutting against Lieberman, potentially even a fatal amount.
  • Harry Reid also opposes Lieberman keeping the chairmanship. If he didn't, then what would all of this arguing even be about? It is an outside possibility that he supports Lieberman but is getting pressure from Durbin and Schumer, but I don't think so. All of the leaks from Reid's meetings with Lieberman indicate Reid wants to strip Lieberman of the chairmanship.
  • In addition to Schumer, Reid, and Durbin, nineteen other incumbent Democrats who will be in the Senate in 2010 publicly supported Ned Lamont back in 2006. These are our best chance for votes among sitting Senators.
Overall, these numbers leave me cautiously optimistic. We have the leadership on our side, while Lieberman basically has the Democratic half of the Gang of Fourteen. We also have a large number of first-term Senators who will probably vote with the leadership, and also a large pool of Lamont supporters to lobby. It's far from secure, but I like our chances.

I like our chances even more if we keep contacting Democratic Senators. You can do so here.

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Reid heard from Obama before his meeting with Lieberman (4.00 / 6)
The call to Reid, which covered many other issues, came before the majority leader met with Lieberman last Thursday to discuss Lieberman's future in the Democratic caucus
So Reid threatened to strip Joe's Homeland chairmanship after he heard from Obama

Too Bad that Obama and Biden don't get a vote (0.00 / 0)
They won't be members of the 111th Congress

well, strictly speaking (4.00 / 2)
The new Congress starts before the Pres and VP start, so they could be members of the 111st Congress when the Congress is organized if they don't resign.

New Jersey politics at Blue Jersey.

[ Parent ]
I'd put HRC as a soft vote... (4.00 / 1)
Given she won't help him at all, I have to see her as a vote to remove.

which Republican did Lieberman campaign for? (0.00 / 0)
did the republican win?  If not the Dem in that race will certainly vote against Lieberman

Not in the Senate... (0.00 / 0)
To my knowledge...

And if you're speaking about Obama, Chris already explained that he doesn't get a vote.

[ Parent ]
He campaigned for Collins and Coleman (4.00 / 4)
But Al Franken is going to in the middle of his recount and won't get a vote, and Tom Allen lost. And I don't think either would have been likely to support Lieberman even if he hadn't supported their opponents.

Conduct your own interview of Sarah Palin!

[ Parent ]
Seems like Merkley will vote against Lieberman (4.00 / 4)
But hasn't a lot changed in the last two years? (4.00 / 2)
I could understand someone who supported Lieberman two years ago deciding that he finally went too far during this campaign.

Besides, it seems to me that there are many complex reasons that factor into a decision whether to support a sitting senator (and possible friend) for reelection, that may not apply to the determination whether to strip him of a leadership position.

Optimistic? (4.00 / 5)
I think I'm getting increasingly optimistic on this. I had forgotten just how many Lamont supporters there were. Granted, they're not all guaranteed to go our way (the original 26 technically includes Bayh, Biden, Dodd and Obama), but they vastly outnumber those that supported Lieberman in 2006.

Also notice how Lieberman and allies are squealing and making threats right now ("You can't do this to me! Do you know who I am?!") It might start to sound more like begging in a few days.

It sounds more and more like Obama not wanting to get the administration's hands dirty; letting folks like Durbin handle the sharp objects. That's my read of the tea leaves, anyway.

Conduct your own interview of Sarah Palin!

Obama says his favorite movie is "The Godfather" (4.00 / 5)
So does "no grudges" = "nothing personal -- this is strictly business"?

John McCain won't insure children

Hmm (0.00 / 0)
I wonder if Joe woke up with a model of McCain's head in his bed

[ Parent ]
It seems she supported Lamont in 2006, (0.00 / 0)
but isn't Barbara Boxer close friends with Lieberman? I think there's a video of the two of them getting coffee or something. Apparently, she was rude to her constituents. I never watched it, so I can't comment for sure on her demeanor. She's my Senator, and I'm wondering whether or not to contact her.

Yeah, she is (0.00 / 0)
She campaigned for him after he became an Independent

[ Parent ]
Are you sure...? (0.00 / 0)
Everything I am seeing says she campaigned for him PRE-PRIMARY, but not after.  She supported Lemont in the General Election.

Firedoglake has an article on this, with Boxer offering to come and campaign for NEd.

[ Parent ]
Is this a secret ballot... (0.00 / 0)
or a voice vote / show of hands public vote?  If it's a secret ballot, Lieberman might only get 3 or so votes because he's such a dick.

John McCain won't insure children

I'm pretty sure it's a secret ballot (0.00 / 0)

[ Parent ]
It's a secret ballot (4.00 / 3)
Which is another one of those tea leaves that sticks out.

Something else that struck me...  People have been bandying out the straw man that our side wants to just eject Joe from the caucus, which isn't true. But it does set up removing him from his chairmanship as a "compromise" plan, so it's a really useful narrative for us.

Also, there's this bit from the Washington Post article.

A possible alternative would be to give Lieberman the chairmanship of the Small Business Committee, which has one of the lowest profiles on Capitol Hill. Its current chairman, Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), is set to move into a more prestigious chairmanship. Other senior members of the Small Business panel already chair more powerful committees, which would allow Lieberman to become chair if he is removed from his current post.

While that chairmanship would be a step down for Lieberman, he still would receive an annual budget that would allow him to maintain additional staff and would continue to participate in important meetings, such as the weekly gathering of committee chairmen hosted by Reid.

If this is being set up as the "compromise" position (the alternative to either expulsion on one side or no punishment on the other), that's very good indeed.

Conduct your own interview of Sarah Palin!

[ Parent ]
Why compromise? (4.00 / 2)
There's also the alternative of taking away his committee chairs and letting him do what he wants with that. I don't see an upside to any more "compromise" than taking away his chairmanships but not kicking him out of the caucus. He won't be a reliable vote on legislation whether he's chairman of something or not, or whether he's in the caucus or not. He's not a Democrat. Democrats owe him absolutely nothing. If they allow him to stay in the caucus, that's more than enough "compromise".

[ Parent ]
Optics (4.00 / 6)
Taking away his plum seat and giving him SBC is a pretty severe punishment, but sill looks accommodating. Remember, he considers any chairmanship other than Homeland Security to be an insult and is threatening to bolt if he loses that.

They can basically say "we had a lot of shuffling to do with new members coming in, Biden and Obama going out and Byrd leaving his chairmanship of appropriations. The caucus wanted to move in a different direction at Homeland Security for various reasons, so we offered Lieberman SBC." If he refuses it and bolts, they can just say "gee, we really were trying to be cooperative here, I guess Joe is just a sore loser." If he tucks tail and takes the token chairmanship, then his bluff has been called and he looks a fool. Either way, he's neutered and out of work in 2012.

Conduct your own interview of Sarah Palin!

[ Parent ]
Again, (0.00 / 0)
why should Dems explain, excuse, or compromise at all? I don't really care how he feels, one way or the other. I just want him isolated and without any Senate power other than his vote on legislation. What's the downside of that?

[ Parent ]
Politics? (4.00 / 3)
They can punish Lieberman while looking brash and mean-spirited, or they can punish Lieberman while looking like winners. Why burn up political capital when you can get the job done without it? He's not worth it.

Conduct your own interview of Sarah Palin!

[ Parent ]
Brash and mean spirited (0.00 / 0)
because they're no longer granting a non-Democrat who campaigned for the Republicans the privilege of chairing a committee? Please. Just who is it you think cares enough about Lieberman to make this a burn of political capital?

[ Parent ]
The whole of the punditocracy? (4.00 / 1)
The chattering class is stupid, but you still have to deal with them.

SBC is a trinket, and Lieberman may well bolt over it. Even if he doesn't, he's left beaten, insulted and declawed. Lieberman's a loser and everyone knows it. Taking an absolutist position on him is just not worth the energy. You're in the minority even among commenters here, who unanimously hate Lieberman's guts.

There's also a difference between what you'd like to have and what's actually possible. It'll be much easier to get a majority of Democrats in the senate to boot him to a minor committee chairmanship. Getting a majority to leave him with nothing is probably not possible.

Conduct your own interview of Sarah Palin!

[ Parent ]
I didn't realize that the senate chairmanships came with budgets (0.00 / 0)
for staff.  If indeed this compromise is what's in the works, then it makes sense for Obama to say "no grudges."  It suggests that he doesn't want to punish Joe (strip him of staff and budget) but he does want Joe out of the way of being counterproductive.

At least, that's how I read it.


Visit the Obama Project

[ Parent ]
Hmmmm (0.00 / 0)
Didn't Reid start kicking Joe out of the weekly meetings a few months ago.

Could be a reach, but that might show that Lieberman's on his way out, and his supporters are trying to save some face for him.

That said, I do want him ejected from the caucus.  He'll feel a lot more comfortable getting whipped by McConnell.  

[ Parent ]
Public statements and secret votes. (4.00 / 1)
I have to wonder whether all those who are publicly supporting Lieberman will follow through when it comes to their secret ballot. I'm thinking especially of Dodd, who probably feels pushed to publicly back his fellow CTian. There's pressure to be publicly "collegial", but in their hearts most Dem senators are acutely aware that Joe is a treacherous pain in the ass. Few have any motivation to vote to keep him. The vote against could turn out to be surprisingly lopsided.

Heh (4.00 / 1)
That would be hilarious if the number of actual votes in support of Joe is fewer than the number of senators who supported him publicly. Faces, meet eggs.

Conduct your own interview of Sarah Palin!

[ Parent ]
Lieberman Dog Senators? (0.00 / 0)
Time to start beating up on the Lieberman (whipped) Dog Senators?

We need to watch which Lieberman Dogs are up for re-election in 2010, and support attempts to primary them.

We can't dump Lieberman from the Senate until 2012, but we might be able to dump on some of his closest supporters.

And that means you, Ken Salazar! (4.00 / 1)
He makes my skin crawl.

John McCain won't insure children

[ Parent ]
Isn't Salazar DLC? .. (0.00 / 0)
Carper .. and the other HoJo supporters(publicly anyway) are all DLC'ers

[ Parent ]
Salazar is a pathetic excuse for a Democrat. (0.00 / 0)
He needs to be gone.  We definitely should start looking to primary him.  He lives in my adjoining state, and I have followed him pretty closely.  His favorite thing is rolling over for Bush.  I seriously want to see him replaced.

[ Parent ]
I'd think some Senators close to Obama (4.00 / 1)
would follow Durbin, if Durbin is thought to be representing Obama's true position.

I'd think we can count on Senators like Klobuchar, McCaskill, Kerry, who have been spokespeople for the campaign.

Early endorsers (prior to their states voting) include Kennedy (If he's back in DC to vote), Casey, Dorgan, Conrad, Rockefeller, Leahy, Johnson, and Ben Nelson

Endorsements prior to end of primary but after their states include Bingaman, Byrd, and Akaka.

"Never separate the life you live from the words you speak" -Paul Wellstone

I like our chances (0.00 / 0)
THanks for pointing out the senators on our side.

Claire is definitely voting to kick Joe out. I would bet my mother's jewels on it.

[ Parent ]
I don't know... (0.00 / 0)
Although Claire was one of Obama's strongest and earliest supporters, she's also big on not telling other people what to do.  She stated that she wouldn't block any Bush appointments because she believes in the president's power of appointment.  That was in the context of Bolten as U.N. Ambassador.  I have no idea what she'll do, but I offered her my opinion on the matter. :)

[ Parent ]
A total waste of effort, imho. (0.00 / 0)
McCaskill is totally non-responsive even to her financial supporters.  She knows what to do better than you.  She doesn't give a damn what anybody thinks.

[ Parent ]
Durbin is huge (4.00 / 4)
I don't think a lot of people realize the full extent of the Obama-Durbin connection; Obama controls Durbin, and Durbin has pull in his Senate position, and basically can't (or won't) take a shit without Obama's permission.  I can't see any way he'd be vociferously out there against Lieberman's chairmanship in defiance of Obama, which makes me think that in fact, Durbin is Obama's true voice in the matter and that Lieberman is done.

I still think that (0.00 / 0)
the Dem caucus should not be in a big hurry to shove Joe out of the nest.  The closer we get to 60 seats, the tougher it will be for the Republicans to scrape together the 40 votes they need to beat cloture votes--I can't see just giving them Joe on a silver platter.  Anyhow, regardless of his friendships, Lieberman is a very progressive member of the Senate, and votes with us pretty consistently on social and environmental issues.  He doesn't have any natural constituency on the Repub side of the aisle--where's he going to go?  I think they should tell him he's been an asshole, censure him if they think they need to, and then forgive him.

Thanks for your concern (4.00 / 1)
Very few are talking seriously about kicking him out of the caucus. He's likely to just lose his committee chairmanship. If he decides to pout and leave the caucus, it's his choice.

Conduct your own interview of Sarah Palin!

[ Parent ]
Barbara Boxer (0.00 / 0)
is already soliciting contributions for her 2010 Senate run.  I got an email from her son today, and replied to him that I would donate ONLY if she votes to strip Lieberman of his chairmanship of Homeland Security.

Make him an ambassador (0.00 / 0)
to some place like Belgium.

Replace him in CT with a real Democrat.

CT has a GOP governor (0.00 / 0)
And I'm sure she'd be happy to appoint his replacement. Lieberman is better than any Republican.

[ Parent ]
I'm not buying that Obama wants Lieberman in the Caucus (0.00 / 0)
After spending some time thinking about this, I am starting to believe that Obama really wants to boot Lieberman out of the caucus, but he wants to play good cop.  I don't think its at all surprising that the Senator closest to Obama, Dick Durbin, is the one pushing of Lieberman's ouster.  I think that in all probability, we're seeing Obama's methodology in dealing with Congress.  Obama is the nice guy, but he respects the decisions of the harder edged Congress.  I just figured out who Bad Cop is, and he is us.

Yeah (0.00 / 0)
I've been thinking along the same lines.  Obama is definitely the good cop here. can't blame him for Lieberman's removal from the committee chair or from the caucus.

The bad cop is both us (in the background) and Reid (as the point man). Durbin and Schumer are the whips for the bad cop.

[ Parent ]

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