If Obama wins presidency, Lieberman might be odd man out

Connecticut senator could lose chairmanship of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., lost his regular Tuesday lunch date earlier this year. After the election, even though he isn't on the ballot, he could lose his job as chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

Lieberman, who won re-election two years ago by running as an independent after losing the Democratic primary, angered his Democratic colleagues this year by not only campaigning for Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., but by speaking on his behalf and questioning Democratic nominee and Illinois Senator Barack Obama's leadership abilities at the Republican convention.

Lieberman, in an agreement with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., decided earlier in the year to stop attending the Democrats' weekly policy lunch for the rest of the election season, and some Republicans have openly rooted for him to cross the aisle and join the GOP.

Current and former Capitol Hill staffers on both sides of the aisle are skeptical Lieberman would abandon the Democrats, but there is a widespread belief that Democrats might abandon their 2000 vice presidential nominee if they pick up enough seats next month.

"Lieberman better hope John McCain wins the White House, because come Nov. 5, if there's a President-Elect Obama, I don't think it's going to be good for him," one former Democratic aide said.

A McCain victory might give Lieberman an easy out -- a job as a Cabinet secretary or a senior adviser.

But with polls showing McCain trailing Obama, Lieberman might just have to face the music. That could include losing his committee chairmanship. "If I were a betting man, I don't think it looks too good" for Lieberman to keep the post, said one former Democratic staffer.

A Lieberman aide said the senator was not available for an interview due to his campaign commitments for McCain. For all their anger, though, there might be an incentive for Democrats to think twice before backhanding Lieberman. Though they are universally expected to increase their majority, every vote is precious when nearly every major bill in the Senate needs 60 votes to pass.

And, as one former senior Democratic staffer noted, Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., and others have demonstrated the power one determined -- or spurned -- member of the chamber can have. "He's a sitting U.S. senator, and no matter what your colleagues think of you, you can wield a great deal of power," the former staffer said.