USE IT OR LOSE IT….If one were to list of all the reasons Joe Lieberman is annoying, it’d take a while. There’s his support for the Bush/Cheney foreign policy; his broken promises from the 2006 campaign; his constant reinforcing of right-wing media frames; his support for GOP obstructionism; etc.

While all of those are, to be sure, maddening, I’d put an entirely different problem at the top of the list: his wholesale negligence as chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

Brian Beutler has a great piece today on “The Year in Oversight,” and notes a point that doesn’t get emphasized nearly enough:

There certainly have been gaffes, softballs, and missed opportunities. And the most obvious are found in the Senate Committee on Homeland Security — the Senate’s version of Rep. Henry Waxman’s Oversight Committee in the House. Unlike Waxman’s enthusiastic probing, the Senate chair conducted zero proactive investigations into Bush administration malfeasance. It’s chairman? Connecticut’s Joseph Lieberman.

A year ago, seeking re-election, Lieberman said this committee was his top priority, and he was desperate to return to the Senate so he could wield the gavel. And now that he has the authority he sought, he’s decided not to conduct any real oversight of the administration at all.

He seems to have desperately sought a chairman’s gavel just for the sake of having it — Lieberman wanted power he had no intention of using.

I appreciate the fact that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was in a bind before the 110th Congress began. Rumor has it, to keep Lieberman in the caucus, Reid had to give him the chairmanship — or get stuck with a 50-50 split.

But consequences have to matter. Instead of a Senate Committee on Government Affairs that functions as it should, Lieberman just treads water, using his gavel as a flotation device. It’s an embarrassing waste of what’s supposed to be the Senate’s watchdog committee.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.