WASHINGTON - (AP) - President-elect Obama is steering clear of getting involved in one fight on Capitol Hill: whether Senate Democrats should remove Joe Lieberman as chairman of an important committee.
Lieberman's affiliation with Democrats is in question after theConnecticut independent's high-profile support of Republican JohnMcCain for president.
Lieberman has met with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid ofNevada, but there has been no word on whether Reid intends to tryto oust Lieberman as chairman of the Senate Homeland Security andGovernmental Affairs Committee.
"What happens on the House and Senate, on chairmanship is theirbusiness," Obama's incoming chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, saidSunday. "But the business of what we have to do when we get swornin is focusing on what the American people care about. Priority oneis the economy."
Lieberman pledged last week to put partisan considerations asideand work with Obama. Lieberman, who was Al Gore's running mate in2000, was re-elected to the Senate from Connecticut in 2006 as anindependent after losing his state's Democratic primary. He remainsa registered Democrat and aligns himself with Senate Democrats.
"Joe Lieberman has done something that I think was improper,wrong, and I'd like - if we weren't on television, I'd use astronger word of describing what he did. But Joe Lieberman voteswith me a lot more than a lot of my senators," Reid said in aninterview broadcast Sunday.
"He didn't support us on military stuff and he didn't supportus on Iraq stuff. But you look at his record, it's pretty good. Hecomes from one of the most liberal states in the country. ... JoeLieberman is not some right wing nut case. Joe Lieberman is one ofthe most progressive people ever to come from the state ofConnecticut," Reid said.
Connecticut Democrats are scheduled to meet on Dec. 17 to decidewhether the state party should censure Lieberman.
In the meantime, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentuckyis talking to Lieberman about the possibility of Lieberman'scaucusing with the GOP.
In the past, Democrats tolerated Lieberman's politicalstraddling because he held their slim political majority in hishands. Now that Democrats have strengthened their hold on theSenate, there could be added pressure to punish Lieberman.
Emanuel spoke on ABC's "This Week," while Reid appeared onCNN's "Late Edition."
Liebermanmulls party options after Obama victory