KING: A lot of attention focused on a new president coming into town but you have a pretty interesting job at the moment yourself, managing a sometimes dysfunctional family here in the Senate. You mentioned Senator McCain, I want to move on to one of his sidekicks on the campaign trail, was Senator Lieberman who is an Independent but a member of your Democratic family when it comes to voting in the Senate. Many members, many of your Democratic members flatly think he is a traitor for not only his support of John McCain but for the things he said critical of Barack Obama. They want him gone.Am I defending the actions of Sen. Lieberman during this past year? No, I am not. Just look at those last two comments!
You have proposed he lose his premier committee, Homeland Security, take a lesser committee, Veterans' Affairs or something else. Why not just say sorry, Joe, you are not welcome here anymore.
REID: Well, John, whoever gave you this information is wrong because he is not on the Veterans' Committee. I couldn't offer him that if I wanted to.
But let me just say this about John -- about Joe Lieberman. I know Joe Lieberman very well. He is a senior member of the Senate. He is on Armed Services, if something happens to the chairman he becomes chairman. If something happens to the chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, he becomes chairman. So he is a senior member -- person around here. And I want to remind all of the people that are watching this newscast or however this program is going to air that I would not be majority leader but for his vote.
We could not have passed our budget -- we passed a budget the Republicans couldn't pass. They had 55 senators. We had 51. They couldn't pass a budget, we did. Why? Joe Lieberman voted with us.
So I recognize what he did was wrong and quite frankly, I don't like what he did. I told him so all during the campaign. But the caucus has a decision to make and they're going to make it. I am not going to make the decision. Whether we're going to say, OK, we've had enough of you, Joe, go vote with the Republicans or whether we're going to try to work something out with Joe Lieberman. Say, Joe, we don't like what you did. And here is what we propose we're going to do.
So we've had a number of conversations, we're going to have more. But for those people beating up on Joe Lieberman, I've done my share. Recognize the glass being half full, not half empty.
KING: He's chairman of the committee now, the Homeland Security Committee, which has a lot to do with the safety of Americans here. You mentioned Armed Services. He said this at the Republican Convention. He highlighted John McCain's service and he criticized those who quote, "wanted to retreat in defeat from the field of battle which would have been a disaster for the United States when colleagues like Barack Obama were voting to cut off funding for troops on the battlefield."
Senator Obama is about to be President Obama, about to be the commander-in-chief. Do you want a man who says he is not ready to be commander-in-chief, nowhere close, to be the chairman of a committee in the Democratic Senate?
REID: Joe Lieberman told me yesterday you have a big job to do. I am going to do everything I can to help Barack Obama.
KING: Does he owe him an apology?
REID: Oh, I don't know. This is not a high school deal where you say, OK, you embarrassed me in front of my girlfriend therefore you apologize.
KING: But you made peace with Senator McCain. Should they do something like that?
REID: Maybe they already have. I think a lot of this is very private stuff but Joe Lieberman has done something that I think was improper, wrong, and I'd like -- if we weren't on television, I'd use a stronger word of describing what he did. But Joe Lieberman votes with me a lot more than a lot of my senators.
He didn't support us on military stuff and he didn't support us on Iraq stuff.
REID: But you look at his record, it's pretty good. He comes from one of the most liberal states in the country. He is -- Joe Lieberman is not some rightwing nutcase. Joe Lieberman is one of the most progressive people ever to come from the state of Connecticut.
UPDATE AT 11:08 CT:
President-elect Barack Obama has informed party officials that he wants Joe Lieberman to continue caucusing with the Democrats in the 111th Congress, Senate aides tell the Huffington Post.Josh reports that a high-level senate Democratic source told him that President Clinton has been making calls on Lieberman's behalf. However, Matt McKenna has denied those allegations.
Obama's decision could tie the hands of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who has been negotiating to remove Lieberman as chair of the Homeland Security and Government Reform committee while keeping him within the caucus. Lieberman has insisted that he will split from the Democrats if his homeland security position is stripped.[...]
A Democrat close to Lieberman, meanwhile, said he thought that keeping Lieberman in the fold "would be a good move for Obama as a way to make real his promise of new politics, a less partisan Washington and more unity. He would do so at some risk. Obviously there is a liberal wing of the party that wants Joe punished... "