Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, who this fall campaigned hard for Republican presidential nominee John McCain, got only a mild rebuke Tuesday from Senate Democrats.
On a 42-to-13 secret ballot vote, Senate Democrats agreed to let Lieberman keep the chairmanship of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, but sharply criticized him for comments he made about President-elect Barack Obama during the campaign.
Lieberman, who prior to running as an independent in 2006 was a lifelong Democrat, was stripped of a minor subcommittee chairmanship within the Environment and Public Works Committee, but allowed to keep the helm of the Armed Services Committee's AirLand panel.
The vote followed what Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., one of Lieberman's chief supporters, called a “robust debate.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he was angry at Lieberman's actions but also said “this was not a time for retribution.” Aiding Lieberman was Obama's position that he wasn't inclined to see the senator punished.
Lieberman was somewhat contrite after the vote, telling reporters, “There are some (comments) that I made that I wish I had not. In the heat of campaigns, that happens to all of us, but I regret that, and now it's time to move on.”
Some senators were unforgiving, citing Lieberman's October comments that Obama was “naive” about world affairs and that the Democratic Party “is not the Democratic Party of my dear friend Bill Clinton.”
Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, recalled how Lieberman called an Obama vote against Iraq war funding a vote to put American forces in danger.
“That's outrageous, what he said,” Harkin said.
Leading the effort to support Lieberman were Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., who argued that his state benefited from retaining Lieberman in a powerful position, as well as Salazar; Bill Nelson, D-Fla.; and Tom Carper, D-Del.