Are We Sure Lieberman Would Resign?

Political commentary and more.
Nov. 9 2000 3:28 AM

Are We Sure Lieberman Would Resign?

What makes everyone so damn sure that Joe Lieberman will resign his Connecticut Senate seat should Al Gore win the White House? If control of the Senate is at stake--which it would be if Maria Cantwell wins in Washington, producing a 50-50 split--won't there be a good deal of pressure on Lieberman to refuse the vice presidency and retain his Senate seat? (If he quits the Senate, remember, a Republican governor will appoint his successor.)

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Let's think this through for a minute.

Who would replace Lieberman as vice president? As far as I can see, if Lieberman wins the office in the Electoral College, but then "refuses" it, President Gore would fill the vacancy by nominating someone who would then have to be confirmed by majorities of both houses of Congress, as provided in the 25 th Amendment. Republicans would control the new House of Representatives and half the Senate, and they might be a little pissed off at Lieberman's gambit--but they would also respect his sacrifice. Presumably Gore could get them to approve some respected, nonthreatening Democrat, a Robert Rubin type. (Who would break a Senate tie in the vote on such a nomination? I haven't the faintest idea!) The new vice president would then break the 50-50 tie in the vote on selecting a Senate majority leader, giving that office to Tom Daschle--and giving Democrats control of the Senate committees and the campaign contributions that go with them.

Wouldn't this selfless act of party loyalty make still-Sen. Lieberman a revered figure among Democrats (bigger than Hillary!), positioning him well for a possible future presidential run? It might position him better, maybe, than a constraining stint as Gore's vice president.

P.S.:  As discussed in  this authoritative "Press Box,"  Gore might even be able to appoint Bill Clinton to be his vice president, even though Clinton will have served two full terms as president and is covered by the 22nd Amendment. It all depends on what the meaning of "elected" is. The 22nd Amendment only says that a two-term president can't be "elected" to the presidency. But arguably someone nominated by the president and confirmed by the House hasn't been "elected"--only electors in the Electoral College (or voters electing those electors) can do that! The 22nd Amendment doesn't say a two-term president can't serve again as president or vice president--and if the drafters of the amendment had wanted to say it they'd have said it, right? All this is not to say that Gore would ever want Clinton as his vice president.