LIEBERMAN’S FRIENDS…. Last week, after Joe Lieberman’s speech to the Republican convention, Arlen Specter told reporters, “I would like to see him move a little closer to being a Republican. I’d like to see him vote with the Republicans when we go back in September. He’s practically there.”

He sure is.

Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) received a hero’s welcome upon his return to the Senate Monday — from Republicans.

Lieberman, the Democrat-turned-Independent whose speech to the Republican National Convention was one of last week’s convention highlights, was immediately surrounded and congratulated by a small group of Republicans when he re-entered the chamber for a 5:30 p.m. vote. John Thune of South Dakota, Kit Bond of Missouri, Jeff Sessions of Alabama, Susan Collins of Maine and Jon Kyl of Arizona all shook hands with Lieberman or patted him on the back. At least one senator made a passing joke, “the water’s nicer over here,” referring to the ongoing lobbying to get Lieberman to switch his party affiliation to Republican. […]

Lieberman stayed huddled with Republicans during his approximately 20 minutes on the floor Monday, never venturing onto the Democratic side of the aisle.

The Politico’s Glenn Thrush quoted a “person close to Lieberman,” saying the Connecticut senator is aware of the fact that his ties to the Democrats are coming to a close.

“He knew he would be gone [from the caucus]. He was aware of that. He knew he was out when he decided to make that speech,” the source said. “It’s not imminent. He’s going to see what Harry [Reid] and Chuck [Schumer] are going to do. But he’ll soon be out of both” his chairmanship and the caucus, the person added.

Steve Benen

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.