Reid and Lieberman have a chat

REID AND LIEBERMAN HAVE A CHAT…. Joe Lieberman’s fate remains very much in the air. Nico Pitney reports:

Bolstered by a newly expanded majority, Harry Reid met with Joe Lieberman on Thursday to sketch out the conditions by which the Connecticut independent could continue to caucus with Senate Democrats. But Lieberman did not accept Reid’s initial offers, leaving his future in the caucus uncertain, and potentially setting off a campaign to pressure the Democratic steering committee to decide Lieberman’s fate.

Reid offered Lieberman a deal to step down as chairman of the homeland security committee but take over the reins of another subcommittee, likely overseeing economic or small business issues officials said.

Immediately after his meeting with Reid, Lieberman told reporters that he had not made a decision about his future in the caucus, and appeared to launch his first public appeal to members of the Democratic steering committee, whose members decide committee chair assignments.

“I completely agree with President-elect Obama that we must now unite to get our economy going again and to keep the American people safe. that is exactly what I intend to do with my colleagues here in the Senate in support of our new president, and those are the standards I will use in considering the options that I have before me,” Lieberman told reporters.

I suppose Lieberman wants Senate Democrats to think of him as someone who’s cooperative and open-minded, his offensive conduct during the campaign notwithstanding.

Jane Hamsher added some insightful speculation: “Reid told him he can stay in the caucus if he steps down from his committee chairmanship…. I imagine Reid told him they’ll wait to do anything until the other Senate races are decided, but that’s the way it’s going to go down. Those are the rather well-sourced rumors circulating, anyway. Joe now goes to see if he can get a better deal from the GOP, knowing his chances of winning in Connecticut as a Republican in 2012 are about ‘zero.'”

It must be frustrating for ol’ Joe to have no leverage. When there are 49 Democrats in the chamber, the support of an independent like Lieberman is hard to ignore. When there are 55, and his goodwill among Democrats has disappeared, Lieberman is playing poker with a very weak hand.

Republicans will probably offer him anything he wants, including keeping his seniority, but there are obvious limits given the size of the GOP caucus. His best deal would be a subcommittee chairmanship and staying with the majority party, but time will tell if Lieberman realizes it.