10.18.2010 1

Lieberman the Kingmaker? Think Ben Nelson Instead

Speculation is running rampant on Capitol Hill that Connecticut Senator, McCain for President supporter, Joe Lieberman could be the tie-breaking vote on who is in control of the Senate if the Senate ends up with a 50-50 split after November 2nd.

The highly respected congressional newspaper, The Hill, even goes so far as to have a front page headline heralding Lieberman as a likely “Kingmaker.” While the author of the story, J.T. Rushing has proven to be a reliable reporter on Senate issues in the past, he is missing the boat by a wide mile on this story.

Lieberman will not become a Republican, and he will not conference with the Republicans to make a majority.

Remember that Lieberman was defeated in the Democratic Party primary in 2006, and won his seat through an Independent bid, where he cobbled together Democrat, Independent and Republican supporters to defeat the D.C. Democratic establishment that threw in behind his opponent. Then Lieberman essentially rejoined these very same Democratic colleagues in 2007.

In 2008, Lieberman joined John McCain on the campaign trail in his failed presidential bid, and after the election, he once again fell into the arms of Harry Reid.

Joe Lieberman is the ultimate tease — he shows a little leg, but never delivers for Republicans.

However, the real wild card in the Senate sweepstakes is Nebraska’s Ben Nelson. Nelson has actually voted with Republicans on a number of spending and policy issues over the course of the past year, as he tries to make amends to his dark-red state constituents for his disastrous vote and horse trading on ObamaCare.

If Nelson hopes to get re-elected in 2012, he cannot cast his first vote in 2011 for far left Illinois Senator Dick Durbin for Majority Leader. To do so would essentially be the equivalent of sending a news release announcing his retirement.

On many recent Senate votes, Harry Reid has seemingly almost written off Nelson’s vote, and has focused upon getting the two Republican Senators from Maine instead.

Nelson has voted against Big Labor in opposing Craig Becker’s nomination to the National Labor Relations Board. He voted against Big Green when supporting Lisa Murkowski’s attempt to stop the EPA from using the Clean Air Act to excessively regulate all American industry under the guise of “global warming”. Nelson supported funding the war, a direct rebuke to the MoveOn/socialist wing of the Democratic Party.

While Ben Nelson still has to account for both his ObamaCare and Financial Services takeover votes, if any sitting Senator is likely to switch sides of the aisle, and vote for Mitch McConnell for Majority Leader it is Ben Nelson.

Obviously, this kind of talk about majorities is premature, but a 50/50 split in the Senate is becoming more of a possibility. Currently the Republicans hold 41 seats and the Democrats hold 59. According to RealClearPolitics, of the seats that are up for election, the Republicans are heavily favored to win Democrat seats in North Dakota, Indiana and Arkansas with the Democrat seats in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin leaning toward the Republican candidate. This puts the Republicans at 46 seats to 54 for the Democrats.

Tossup races in the currently held Democratic states of California, Colorado, Illinois, West Virginia and Nevada combined with the still closely contested Democrat seats in Washington state and Connecticut makes the 50/50 scenario at least plausible, particularly with no seats currently held by a Republican in danger.

If you wake up on November 3rd, and discover a tie in the Senate, expect Ben Nelson, not Joe Lieberman to become the most popular person in D.C. Of course, the Democrats are old hat at this game, and they will target Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins as potential party switchers. Somehow, I suspect they will be stymied in this effort by two words: Arlen Specter. He switched parties and lost a Democratic primary in spite of the best efforts of the D.C. Democratic establishment.

While all this palace intrigue makes most Americans somewhat sick to their stomach, the behind-the-scenes action during the lame duck session may be less about what bills pass, and more about who sits in the Senate majority in 2011. Pundits will have a field day, and the rest of America will just shake their heads.

Rick Manning is the Director of Communications for Americans for Limited Government.

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