Can Senator Lieberman Be Recalled?

"He should be recalled," jokes blogger John Amato.

"And then forced to move to another state."

Liberal democrats hate Joe Lieberman — and according to a recent poll, a lot of other people do too. The Connecticut Senator is so unpopular, he'd "be crushed today" in a new election, one headline announced, citing a poll showing that even 46% of Connecticut's independent voters disapproved of Lieberman's performance, while another pollster noted Lieberman's overall approval rating "has dropped below 50 percent for the first time in 14 years of polling..."

Is the discontent building into a political force? Yesterday a petition with nearly 50,000 signatures was delivered to Capitol Hill urging the Democrats to revoke Lieberman's leadership of the Homeland Security committee. And some bloggers have pondered an even more severe question: can you recall a sitting Senator?

Lieberman won a six-year term in 2006 with just 49.7% of the vote — after losing in the state's primary election, and being forced to run as an independent. And since then he's antagonized both parties, caucusing with the Senate's Democrats to provide the crucial vote they need for a one-Senator majority — while endorsing the Republicans' presidential candidate. "Come on, Connecticut, recall this boob," wrote one blogger — even before the latest poll showed Lieberman trailing by a huge 15 points in a re-match against his previous Democratic challenger, Ned Lamont.

But is there enough bad energy around the Senator to launch a recall effort?

According to at least one liberal blogger — no. "I'm pretty certain that as a factual matter he cannot be recalled," says Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo. "Full stop. Can't happen." Some states have a recall procedure in their Constitution, notes Daily Kos blogger Meteor Blades — but Connecticut isn't one of them.

And even then, "there is the matter of whether a state could recall a Senator if it had a recall provision on the books," he adds. "I'm no lawyer — Constitutional or otherwise — but since no serious effort has ever been made to recall a Senator, we don't have any case law dealing with the issue." In 1967, Idaho tried to recall Senator Frank Church, only to be told by a district court that the state's recall laws didn't apply to a U.S. senator, according to Wikipedia. Idaho's Attorney General agreed, saying the U.S. Constitution handles the ejection of Senators.

In fact, 32 Senators have faced expulsion from the Senate over its 219-year history under a provision in the first article of the U.S. Constitution. ("Each House may determine the rules of its proceedings...and, with the concurrence of two thirds, expel a member.") The last one was in 1995 — Senator Robert Packwood of Oregon, who resigned after allegations of sexual assault (and a unanimous preliminary expulsion recommendation from the Senate's ethics committee). But a two-thirds vote is hard to achieve — just ask Senators Vitter and Craig. Aside from one treasonous anti-Spanish conspiracy in 1797, no Senators have actually been expelled except for the 14 ejected during the Civil War for supporting the Confederacy.

Recall procedures are listed for 18 states on the official site of the National Conference of State Legislatures — but the number shouldn't be misinterpreted. "We're the national conference of state legislators," says the group's media manager, Meagan Dorsch, "so this page pertains primarily to the recall of state officials. Some of these laws may be applicable for both state and U.S. elected officials — but you would have to read the states' constitutional articles to find out their exact definition of an elected official."

Connecticut isn't one of those states, Meteor Blades points out — and that's only the beginning. "If, somehow, Connecticut managed to put a recall law on the books and then tried to use it against Lieberman, there litigation would start to flow. And everything I've read on the subject indicates that such a move would fail on (U.S.) Constitutional grounds. So, to shorten my answer, 'No,' Lieberman can't be recalled."

But a day of reckoning may still find Joe Lieberman. Until the next election, he's the ultimate swing vote — single-handedly determining which party controls the Senate. In just 16 weeks, however, the Democrats are favored to win at least three more seats — and those election results could change everything. Yesterday reporters directly asked the Democrats' Senate majority leader Harry Reid whether Lieberman should retain his committee leadership posts even after the election. "Let's talk about this year," Reid hedged non-commitally. When pushed on whether he was open to change, the Senate leader countered that he wasn't, then added "I'm just waiting to get through this year when I have a 51 vote majority."

"He will be ousted of all his leadership responsibilities if a few more states vote for Democratic candidates in the Senate," believes John Amato, who founded the political blog Crooks and Liars. In fact, Amato believes Lieberman's recent support of John McCain hides a Machiavellian scheme. Lieberman "latched onto John McCain because...he knows this, and has betrayed the values he says he believes in for purely personal gain."

Meteor Blades notes ironically that Democrats could see Lieberman leave the Senate in November — if John McCain won the Presidency, and then gave Lieberman a cabinet post. McCain might even run with Lieberman on the ticket as Vice President in another scenario. (Though ironically, last week's polling showed the combination would actually hurt McCain's chances of winning Lieberman's home state of Connecticut.) And there's one other option that would remove Lieberman from the Senate. If Barack Obama wins in November "Obama could offer him a good Cabinet position," suggested one commenter at Daily Kos wryly.

"But that has the downside of putting Lieberman in a good Cabinet position."

What about that grass roots petition to strip Lieberman of his committee leadership positions? Lieberman dismissed it as "old, petty partisan politics," according to the response from Lieberman's office. And so far the controversy isn't winning support from the Democrats' leader in the Senate. "Anytime we have a problem here, with the exception of Iraq, Joe Lieberman is with us," Harry Reid told reporters Thursday. "So I wish people would leave him alone."

There's no question that Lieberman is unpopular — but the real question is what to do about it. In fact, Lieberman already has an unexpected supporter for a re-election bid in 2012 — Markos Moulitsas of Daily Kos. "My biggest fear is that Lieberman retires in 2012," Markos wrote last week.

"I want him defeated at the ballot box."

See Also:
Don't Go There: Top 20 Taboo Topics for Presidential Candidates
Prior Permission From Government to be Required For Each Flight
Homeland Security Follies
The Future of America Has Been Stolen

6 thoughts to “Can Senator Lieberman Be Recalled?”

  1. This asshole needs to be recalled and every bit of his “power-base” in DC removed. If he were recalled by his own state, he could then move on to his lucrative career as an insurance lobbyist without all these cloak and dagger games.

    I have a hard time understanding how fucking stupid the american public is. This country is not the greatest on the planet. Trust me. I’ve lived in many places all over the earth, and this place takes a backseat to most other first world countries that don’t use politics to simply line their pockets.

  2. @ the expense of their own citizens.

    It is simply disgusting that this country in the name of free trade and capitalism grants huge corporations the right to be exempt from monopoly laws and to make a profit business out of other peoples suffering and misery.

    This health care reform bill is going to wake up a lot of people once they realize they have just been royally screwed once again by their own government.

    Hey, we’ve done nothing to contain costs, we’re going to tax the shit out of you, and not do anything for years while we collect said taxes, and BTW, you are now REQUIRED by LAW to purchase insurance from the very bastards that have kept you from having insurance in the first place or we’ll severely fine/punish you at the least, and imprison you if we see fit.

    FUCK THAT .. There will be revolution..

  3. also, he CAN BE RECALLED !! It takes the citizens of the state who stupidly elected him to recall him. Get it on the ballot as a referendum.

  4. both John McCain and Barack Obama are great politicians with lots of achievement ~

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