The Democratic Party’s fiercest partisans have been plotting their revenge against Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., for more than two years. His defense of the Iraq occupation and his 2006 election victory — running as an Independent against his former party’s anti-war nominee — were tough medicine. His criticism of Barack Obama and proud support of GOP presidential nominee John McCain were the last straw.
Angry liberals were in agreement on the appropriate punishment: Sen. Lieberman’s open disloyalty should cost him the chairmanship of the Homeland Security Committee.
All the while, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada urged restraint and reserved judgment.
"All my close votes, he’s always with me, whether it’s the budget or energy issues," Sen. Reid said in an August meeting with Review-Journal journalists. "No matter what it is, he’s always with us. He just does not vote right on Iraq. … Why would I want to throw away a good vote?"
In September, Sen. Reid insisted Sen. Lieberman’s transgressions would be addressed in due course, warning zealots that driving him out of the party could cost the Democrats their 51-49 majority.
"The caucus has a decision to make, and they’re going to make it," Sen. Reid said. "For those people beating up on Joe Lieberman — I’ve done my share — recognize the glass being half-full, not half-empty."
On Tuesday, with the far-left wing of the Democratic Party still demanding a pound of flesh, Sen. Reid stuck by his word. Re-elected majority leader, Sen. Reid allowed Sen. Lieberman to keep his chairmanship of the Homeland Security Committee.
Sen. Reid appeared to quell whatever hostility remained by allowing his caucus to pass a resolution condemning Sen. Lieberman’s campaign statements against President-elect Obama and stripping Sen. Lieberman of the chairmanship of an Environment and Public Works subcommittee.
Sen. Reid’s willingness to stand up to the yowling of unreasonable followers marks an encouraging start to his second go-round as Senate leader. We hope he can rein in what promises to be cornucopia of liberal legislation and look out for the interests of Nevada and its battered economy.
It goes without saying that Sen. Reid’s return to the post of Senate majority leader is another boon for the Silver State.
His first session as leader, however, was marked by negativity and nastiness and brought some of the lowest approval ratings in the history of Congress. He’ll need to display the kind of leadership he provided Tuesday if he expects Nevada voters to return him to office in 2010.
Meanwhile, the Senate’s GOP minority on Tuesday saw fit to promote Nevada’s John Ensign to the chairmanship of the Republican Policy Committee, the No. 4 position in the party’s leadership. Sen. Ensign had chaired the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the No. 5 post, which gave him the miserable task of trying to get GOP candidates elected in a year dominated by Democrats.
Sen. Ensign appears to have succeeded in preventing Democrats from winning a filibuster-proof Senate majority. Now he’ll have a big role in retooling Republican policy priorities and legislative strategies.
The Republican Party must return to the fundamentals of limited government and fiscal responsibility if it hopes to have any chance in future elections, and Sen. Ensign, one of the most principled conservatives remaining in the upper chamber, is the right person to help lead it back to relevance.
Tuesday’s news from Washington provided more proof that Sen. Reid and Sen. Ensign have become the most formidable Nevada delegation in state history.