Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is mulling scenarios that would allow renegade Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman to keep his homeland security committee chairmanship -- but Reid might put Lieberman's fate to secret vote of the Democratic caucus when the lame-duck Senate convenes in two weeks, sources tell Politico.
It’s not clear how a secret vote would go – it could embolden Lieberman’s enemies to exact revenge – or give his friends cover to vote for lenient treatment.
Even as some in his caucus bay for blood, Reid is reluctant to hand a Senator over to the GOP caucus.
A person with direct knowledge of the pair's meeting yesterday on Capitol Hill said Reid turned to Lieberman at one point and said, "I prefer to work this out" after Lieberman hinted he would "explore his options" with Republicans if he was stripped of the committee.
“Senate leadership has begun discussing scenarios in which he keeps it,” said one senior Democratic aide of Lieberman's committee post.
Democratic aides say the majority leader, who is personally friendly with Lieberman, had been inclined to immediately punish Lieberman, a passionate supporter of John McCain's, for criticizing Barack Obama during a speech at the Republican National Convention in August.
They stressed that no decisions have been made -- and that Reid is still angry with Lieberman and could still decide to strip him of the committee chairmanship -- or even advocate booting him from the caucus.
Calls to Reid's office weren't immediately returned.
John Bresnahan and Amie Parnes contributed to this report.