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Joe Lieberman: Loyal Democrat

Twenty-two Democratic senators have donated $10,000 each to Harry Reid's reelection effort. Another senator gave $12,300. And one generous Reid supporter ponied up $14,000. Anyone want to guess who the big-spending Reid backer was? Anyone? Bueller?

It was Joe Lieberman. That seems less weird when you know that Lieberman -- an independent -- votes with the Democrats 90 percent of the time (though his apostasies tend to come on such big-ticket items as health care and Iraq). Tales of the rift between him and his former party seem increasingly overstated.

By Ezra Klein  |  August 31, 2010; 11:10 AM ET
 
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Comments

Ah yes. Big checks make everything alright.

Posted by: daveredhat | August 31, 2010 11:22 AM | Report abuse

Dem hatred of Lieberman has always been extremely overstated. I can't think of another politician who has been thrown under the bus so many times by his own people.

Also with mounting losses coming, the left has to pick their battles and where to spend their money. They can push a candidate and spend a lot of money to get someone marginally more liberal, or they can recognize that he isn't that different from their standard positions and just be happy that the GOP won't run against him and keep a member in their caucus.

Posted by: Natstural | August 31, 2010 11:36 AM | Report abuse

Joe Lieberman.... Isn't he the Senator that Ezra claimed was responsible for thousands of deaths because he temporarily held up the health care legislation?

Posted by: cummije5 | August 31, 2010 11:48 AM | Report abuse

If Lieberman was from Arkansas or North Dakota, few would be complaining.

But he's from *Connecticut* and Democrats can and should have someone far better from a state that solidly blue. (See also Diane Feinstein)

And as has been pointed out already, the problem with the WaPo's metrics on that page is that it inflates the scores by including all those procedural votes. Reviewing close or key votes reveals a much different looking record, though Lieberman has been much better this session(HCR aside).

Posted by: lol-lol | August 31, 2010 11:52 AM | Report abuse

Let's keep score ... giving Reid money equals loyal Democrat ... nearly killing health care equals what?

Posted by: chrismealy | August 31, 2010 12:10 PM | Report abuse

Let's keep score ... giving Reid money equals loyal Democrat ... nearly killing health care equals what?

Loyal American. If he had killed it he would be a superhero.

Posted by: Natstural | August 31, 2010 12:15 PM | Report abuse

I think both sides of this argument get it wrong. Ezra's analysis is *WAAAAY* too easy on Lieberman. As was mentioned above, counting procedural votes and votes on non-controversial issues as being equal to tough/close votes on big issues really doesn't produce a very accurate picture. It's also worth taking into consideration the way the politician acts in public and the things that he says. Leiberman's said some things over the last several years which have done real damage to the public discourse on key issues (the flip flop on Medicare buy in is the one that really sticks out in my head). It's also a good point that Leiberman comes from a fairly liberal state and is probably more conservative that the generic Dem which could be elected in his place.

That said, as frustrated as I've gotten with him over the last several years, Leiberman isn't all bad, and he's certainly better than most of the Republicans in Congress right now. Like the new Star Wars movies, the problem with Leiberman is the feeling of betrayal that Dems feel, which causes them to overreact to what he actually does.

All of that said, if the question is "Do Senate Dems hate him?" Well, probably not. He's been there forever and probably has a lot of people that genuinely like him as a friend. Even getting really pissed off at him about healthcare probably isn't going to destroy those friendships.

Posted by: MosBen | August 31, 2010 12:25 PM | Report abuse

The way I see it, Lieberman is giving the money to Reid's campaign because Reid has been very easy on him -- letting him keep his chairman's gavel, not making his life the living hell it should be. If Reid loses, the next Majority leader might be a lot tougher on turncoats like Lieberman.

Posted by: meander510 | August 31, 2010 12:30 PM | Report abuse

Get back to me in January should the Republicans win 50 or more seats in the Senate. If Lieberman is still caucusing with the Democrats by then, then maybe I'll believe he's a loyal Democrat.

Posted by: redwards95 | August 31, 2010 12:34 PM | Report abuse

C'mon Ezra, MosBen is right on this one.

Counting votes only teaches us so much here. Clearly, several of those votes have come at great cost to the substance of legislation. Sure, Lieberman voted for HCR, but only after ensuring there would be no PO, no Medicare buy-in, etc. With say, Ned Lamont in that seat, we would not have had that problem so I am disinclined to give him much credit.

Posted by: jbossch | August 31, 2010 1:15 PM | Report abuse

I'm reminded of Senator Reid's infamous quip about Arlen Specter back when he was still a "liberal" Republican: "He's always with us when we don't need him."

It's good that he's helping out the caucus financially, but it would be even better if he could be trusted to be there on crucial votes.

Posted by: surak1 | August 31, 2010 1:18 PM | Report abuse

You're pushing this meme too hard Ezra. Lieberman is donating to Harry Reid, because if Harry Reid loses his seat, Lieberman loses his committee chairmanship.

Try again when he stops campaigning for Republicans.

Posted by: ericma | August 31, 2010 2:41 PM | Report abuse

"The way I see it, Lieberman is giving the money to Reid's campaign because Reid has been very easy on him -- letting him keep his chairman's gavel, not making his life the living hell it should be. If Reid loses, the next Majority leader might be a lot tougher on turncoats like Lieberman."

Spot on.

Posted by: ibc0 | August 31, 2010 3:03 PM | Report abuse

"With say, Ned Lamont in that seat, we would not have had that problem so I am disinclined to give him much credit."

Don't be so sure.

Let's remember that Lamont would have been the "Senator From Connecticut," just as Lieberman is. CIGNA has their world headquarters there, Aetna has some key offices there, and WellPoint is a big player in the state. It's an insurance-supported state. The Hartford in The Hartford is that Hartford.

Of course we are both speculating on what might have been, but I have a feeling we'd be railing against Lamont for his bad behavior during the HCR battle just as much as we have about Lieberman's.

Posted by: Rick00 | August 31, 2010 3:15 PM | Report abuse

If tales of Lieberman's distance from his former party are overstated, that is because his former party is a debilitated, captured-by-money disaster.

Posted by: janinsanfran | August 31, 2010 3:42 PM | Report abuse

Again, I think the biggest problem here is is really the distinction between Leiberman's voting patterns and whether that is reflected with his relationships with other legislators. I think there's likely a very strong "It's just business" bias in DC such that there are probably some folks super pissed with him, but by and large he is still friends with whomever he's been friends with for the last twenty years.

Posted by: MosBen | August 31, 2010 4:58 PM | Report abuse

This is pure contrarian drivel. Giving $15,000 of campaign funds (not money out of his own pocket) to the Democratic Majority Leader is a bargain price for a fig leaf. You know that those 'I voted X% of the time with Y' stats are meaningless and cover huge number of procedural votes but you wrote this daft post anyway. The small contribution from Lieberman to Reid got you to write this dead wrong post so it's money well spent for the Lieberman campaign.

Posted by: jamusco | August 31, 2010 6:18 PM | Report abuse

It seems less weird when you realize that Reid imposed no costs on Lieberman whatsoever for his becoming a Republican for two years.

Posted by: pj_camp | August 31, 2010 8:04 PM | Report abuse

How odd to read "procedural" votes discounted in these comments after all the drama about cloture. Procedural votes matter a lot because they often determine whether or not a bill is taken up for a vote.
Or maybe procedural votes matter depending on the issue? Or do they matter depending on who casts them and how they vote?

Posted by: walshgen48 | September 5, 2010 2:36 PM | Report abuse

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