Lieberman to skip Dem lunches

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) will not attend the Democratic policy lunches in the Senate this month, the latest sign that he is moving away from the party after criticizing Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaKrystal Ball tears into 'Never Trump' Republicans Sanders campaign announces it contacted over 1 million Iowa voters Iowa Steak Fry to draw record crowds for Democrats MORE at the Republican National Convention.

"I think it's probably wise for me and for my colleagues in the Democratic caucus to dine somewhere else for the next few weeks," Lieberman said in an interview with The Hill.

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The Connecticut Independent, who was the Democratic vice presidential nominee in 2000 but now supports Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainAmerica's newest comedy troupe: House GOP Michelle Malkin knocks Cokie Roberts shortly after her death: 'One of the first guilty culprits of fake news' Arizona Democratic Party will hold vote to censure Sinema MORE (R-Ariz.) for president, defended his remarks about Sen. Obama (D-Ill.) at last week’s convention, which have angered his Democratic colleagues.

But he acknowledged that the lunches, which occur every Tuesday, have become increasingly focused on the election and that his presence would be awkward.

"It was not fair for me, since I'm not supporting Sen. Obama, to be there," Lieberman said. "I think I'll stay away for a while, with respect."

He may not be welcome anyway. Democrats have criticized Lieberman for delivering a primetime address at the GOP convention, and for leveling direct criticisms at Obama despite previously suggesting that he would only promote McCain's candidacy.

The senator has become increasingly alienated from his former party after Connecticut Democrats refused to endorse him in the 2006 Senate primary over his hawkish stances on Iraq and Iran. He later won a fourth term as an Independent and agreed to caucus with Democrats, giving them a 51-49 majority in the 110th Congress. In return, Democrats gave him the chairmanship of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

But Democrats are considering retaliating and removing him as chairman next Congress if they sufficiently expand their majority in November's elections.

Jim Manley, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidBarr fails to persuade Cruz on expanded background checks Harry Reid warns Trump 'can be reelected' Homeland Security Republican accuses Navy of withholding UFO info MORE (D-Nev.), issued a statement Tuesday disputing reports by other news outlets that Reid told Lieberman he should not to attend the lunches.

“While it is no secret that the Democratic caucus is disappointed in Senator Lieberman’s attacks on Senator Obama, the irresponsible report that Senator Lieberman has been excluded from caucus meetings is completely untrue," Manley said in the statement. "Senator Lieberman has chosen to not attend Democratic caucus lunches, and that is his choice.”

Lieberman said he was not focused on what may happen after the election. When asked if he would caucus with Republicans next year, Lieberman left the option open.

"I have no intention to do that," he said. "But anything is possible."

At the convention, Lieberman praised McCain's record of bipartisanship but leveled direct attacks twice at Obama, saying the Democrat voted to withhold funding for troops on the battlefield and impugning his legislative record.

In the speech, he called Obama a "gifted and eloquent young man who I think can do great things for our country in the years ahead," but added: "My friends, eloquence is no substitute for a record — not in these tough times for America," prompting a standing ovation from GOP delegates.

"I don't consider it an attack," Lieberman said in Tuesday's interview, calling his a "very respectful comparison" of the records of the two men. He said his speech was meant to promote bipartisanship and McCain's record of reaching across the aisle and was not a scathing attack like the one then-Sen. Zell Miller (D-Ga.) gave at the 2004 Republican convention against the Democratic Party.

"I praised [Obama] as a gifted person, but I said today we need two things, which don't come out of his record," he said. "One is a record of bipartisanship and the second is a willingness to take on your own party.

"You can't change Washington if you're just prepared to take on the other party. You have to be willing to take on both parties because both parties are responsible for the mess," Lieberman said. "And Sen. McCain has a very clear record of doing that, and Sen. Obama does not. And I say that with respect."