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Lieberman risks payback from Democrats

/ Source: The Associated Press

Senate Democrats hinted at payback Thursday for Sen. Joe Lieberman, who called Barack Obama an untested candidate beholden to Democratic interest groups in a prime-time Republican National Convention address.

Lieberman, a Democrat-turned-independent and a close friend of Republican presidential candidate John McCain, still caucuses with Democrats, which allows them to control the Senate with a 51-49 majority . A spokesman for Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., indicated Thursday that Lieberman may no longer be welcome.

"Lieberman went too far when he distorted Sen. Obama's record," said Reid spokesman Jim Manley. "From Reid's perspective, (Lieberman) has every right to give a partisan speech to whomever he wants. But he doesn't have the right to distort Sen. Obama's record like that. Sen. Reid was very disappointed in Lieberman's speech."

Added Manley: "The Democratic caucus will likely revisit Lieberman's situation after the November elections."

Asked if Reid was putting Lieberman on notice, Manley replied: "Without overplaying it, the answer is, yes."

Manley refused to discuss what options Democrats might consider in dealing with Lieberman.

"There is no plan," Manley said. "I assume this is something the Democratic caucus will discuss after the elections in November."

There's speculation that if Democrats bolster their Senate majority this fall, as many predict, they could seek retribution by ousting Lieberman from his Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee chairmanship, a coveted post.

Lieberman said he's not surprised that Democrats may seek to punish him. He said electing the right person to the White House is more important to him than partisan considerations.

"I am going to try to do the best I can to get the best person elected, which is McCain, and let the politics take care of itself afterward," Lieberman said in a telephone conference call with reporters Thursday. "I understand my Democratic colleagues are not happy because I am doing something unconventional. But that, to me, just seems to be what my priorities should be right now."