HARKIN’S HINTS ABOUT LIEBERMAN…. Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) doesn’t have a whole lot to gain from siding with Republicans against health care reform. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), however, offered some subtle speculation this week about something Lieberman still has to lose.

“[Lieberman] still wants to be a part of the Democratic Party although he is a registered independent,” Harkin said. “He wants to caucus with us and, of course, he enjoys his chairmanship of the [Homeland Security] committee because of the indulgence of the Democratic Caucus. So, I’m sure all of those things will cross his mind before the final vote.”

To be sure, this is hardly an explicit threat. But it is an instance in which a powerful Democratic senator raised the specter of connecting Lieberman’s vote on reform and his role as a committee chairman and caucus member.

A little something for Lieberman to have “cross his mind.”

In related news, Lieberman also told ABC News yesterday that he’s likely to campaign for Republican candidates next year. “I probably will support some Republican candidates for Congress or Senate in the elections in 2010,” he said.

Lieberman, of course, actively campaigned for several GOP candidates in 2008, and Democrats chose not to punish his betrayals. The Connecticut independent therefore has no qualms about doing the same thing again.

So, taken together, Lieberman is threatening to help Republican block a vote on health care reform, prepared to help Republican candidates in the midterms, and using his committee gavel to lend credence to Republican attacks against the White House, all after promoting the Republican presidential candidate last year.

Democrats are prepared to let him stay on as the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee? To use Harkin’s word, that’s quite an “indulgence.”

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.