Later this morning, the members of the Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee will determine the fate of Senator Joseph Lieberman. While there is precedent for stripping a Chairman of his position, the situations in which this has occurred are rare and usually involve instances where there are accusations of corruption (e.g. Congressman Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. ) or scandal (e.g. Congressman Wilbur Mills). Removing a Chairman for ideological disagreements is almost unheard of. Almost.
In 1974, House Democrats unseated Armed Services Committee Chairman F. Edward Hebert in what amounted to a revolt of the increasingly young and liberal House Democratic Caucus against the seniority system. Many of the younger Democrats were not pleased when Hebert had condescendingly addressed the new members from the Watergate Class of 1974 as “boys and girls.” More importantly, they considered him to be too amenable to the Pentagon.
Similarly today, with the recent additions to their Senate majority having flooded Congress on a wave of anti-Bush/Republican sentiment, the Democratic Party looks to unseat a senior member who they view as too amenable to the Republican Party. Specifically they claim that, as Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Senator Lieberman has been unwilling to conduct their desired investigations of the Bush administration. Endorsing Senator John McCain may have been the last straw, but Senator Lieberman’s real problems stem from the overall perception that he is part of the old system, too aligned with the Republicans and unwilling to adopt the ideology of this generation’s Watergate Class.
What will the outcome of today’s vote by the Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee? If history is a guide, Senator Lieberman may find himself reading up on F. Edward Hebert.