A Secret Ballot Awaits Lieberman
by Jonathan Singer, Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 10:42:45 PM EST
The Hartford Courant has the details:
Senate Democrats will decide by secret ballot Tuesday whether to take away Sen. Joe Lieberman's chairmanship of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee -- a post from which he oversees U.S. security issues, as well as the operations of a wide segment of the federal government.
This cuts in one of two directions. On one hand, the secrecy of the ballot could serve to benefit Joe Lieberman. While there is a great deal of discontent -- and rightly so -- with Lieberman's conduct (not only campaigning on behalf of John McCain and in opposition to Barack Obama, but also campaigning on behalf of Senate Republicans in competitive or potentially competitive races against Democratic challengers), if the Democratic base can't figure out which Democratic Senators are voting to support Lieberman, accountability will be difficult to achieve. The Netroots can try to limit this by pushing individual Senators to come clean about how they intend to vote, or after the fact how they voted, though this would be an arduous process, and success wouldn't be assured.
Yet alternatively, and I believe more likely, the secrecy of the ballot hurts Lieberman. The Senate is a collegial place, largely because any one Senator can go to great lengths to hold up virtually any piece of legislation and thus no Senator wants to get on the bad side of another Senator for want of not having their own bills obstructed. It is likely a result of this fundamental aspect of the chamber that just a small handful of Democratic Senators have gone on the record in opposing Lieberman's bid to maintain control over the Senate's oversight panel. But as the vote on his chairmanship will be secret, and thus Lieberman will not know for certain who voted against him, Lieberman's ability to retaliate against individual Senators will be greatly curtailed.
In either case, we shall know very soon whether or not Lieberman will be able to hold on to his chairmanship or, if alternatively, he is given a consolation prize instead.