Lieberman meets Reid, does not relinquish chairmanship

Democratic Caucus will discuss the Connecticut senator’s fate during the lame duck session.

Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., met with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., on Thursday to discuss what future, if any, he has in the Democratic Caucus but made it clear after the 40-minute session he is not voluntarily relinquishing his chairmanship of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

Reid said no decision had been made.

"While I understand that Senator Lieberman has voted with Democrats a majority of the time, his comments and actions have raised serious concerns among many in our caucus," Reid said in a statement. "I expect there to be additional discussions in the days to come, and Senator Lieberman and I will speak to our caucus in two weeks to discuss further steps."

At a brief televised news conference, Lieberman said, "I want to spend some time in the next few days thinking about what Sen. Reid and I discussed and what my options are at this point, and he promised me he would do the same."

Lieberman, who met with Reid privately in the majority leader's office, has angered many Democrats for stumping for GOP presidential nominee Sen. John McCain of Arizona and speaking out at the Republican National Convention against President-elect Obama, who soundly defeated McCain. Sources said Lieberman will most likely be stripped of his chairmanship, but his fate will not be sealed until the Caucus meets during the lame-duck session in the week of Nov. 17.

Open questions include whether Lieberman will be offered a subcommittee chairmanship on the committee, or whether Democrats will move to severely punish him and remove him from their Caucus altogether.

While Lieberman's future with the Democrats remains unclear, jousting to replace him as chairman has already begun, according to sources on and off Capitol Hill. One source said Senate Veterans' Affairs Chairman Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii will lay claim to the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs chairmanship based on seniority. Akaka already serves as chairman of the Oversight of Government Management Subcommittee.

A spokesman for Akaka said final decisions have not been made. "Senator Akaka will consider his options when the caucus makes a decision during their organizational meetings the week of Nov. 17," the spokesman said. "He is declining to speculate until then."

Another contender is Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Federal Financial Management Subcommittee Chairman Tom Carper, D-Del. The source said Carper likely could not do anything if Akaka makes a move for the chairmanship, given his seniority, but might be compensated in other ways. A spokesman for Carper declined to comment.

Dan Friedman contributed to this story.