A LIEBERMAN CRITIC EMERGES…. It’s easy to think of Democratic senators who’ve expressed support, to one degree or another, for Joe Lieberman keeping his coveted committee chairmanship, despite his recent betrayals. We have not, however, seen Democratic senators step up on the other side — no one in the caucus has publicly announced that he/she supports taking Lieberman’s gavel away.

Today, that changed.

Terjeanderson, a Daily Kos diarist, caught Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) addressing the controversy during an interview on Vermont Public Radio. ThinkProgress has the audio and provided this transcript.

“I’m one who does not feel that somebody should be rewarded with a major chairmanship after doing what he did…. I felt that some of the attacks that he was involved in against Sen. Obama, whom I did support — I was one of the first in the Congress to support him — I thought they went way beyond the pale. I thought that they were not fair. I thought they were not legitimate. I thought that they perpetuated some of these horrible myths that were being run about Sen. Obama.

“I would feel that, had I done something similar, I would not be chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee in the next Congress.”

Kudos to Leahy. We’ll learn on Tuesday how many other members of the caucus agree.

In related news, a Research 2000 poll for Daily Kos asked Connecticut voters for their opinions on their independent senator. Lieberman’s approval ratings have dropped to an embarrassing 36% among his own constituents, and a 48% plurality want to vote against him in the next election. That number grows if Lieberman loses his committee chairmanship and begins caucusing with the Republican Party.

Also, Evan Bayh, among others, seems to like the idea of letting Lieberman keep his committee chairmanship on something akin to probation — if Democrats believe he’s acting up again, they’ll take his gavel away. As it happens, there’s reason to believe that’s far more procedurally difficult that some senators seem to believe.

Update: Greg Sargent has more on the Leahy announcement, including an explanation on why this “could prove a blow to Liebrman.”

Our ideas can save democracy... But we need your help! Donate Now!

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.