Senator Joe Lieberman, who angered many Democrats by publicly backing Republican John McCain for president, will keep his committee chairmanship.
The "vast majority" of Senate Democrats decided today that he should not be stripped of his chairmanship of the Homeland Security panel as punishment, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced.
"Joe Lieberman is a Democrat. He's part of this caucus," Reid told reporters after a closed-door meeting.
The problems facing the country are too important for retribution, Reid said, adding, "We need to be unified."
Lieberman, an independent from Connecticut, said the resolution, objecting to some statements he made about President-elect Barack Obama, was "fair."
He also agreed to give up his seat and chairmanship on an environment subcommitee, but said he will continue to work on global warming.
Lieberman partly credited Obama, who preached forgiveness, for the lighter penalty. Lieberman also publicly thanked a handful of senators for their support, including Chris Dodd of Connecticut, who said later that John F. Kerry of Massachusetts also spoke on Lieberman's behalf.
"We had a very open and constructive discussion about my status in the caucus," Lieberman said after the secret-ballot vote. "This is the beginning of a new chapter."
"Some of the things people have said I said about Senator Obama are simply untrue," Lieberman said after the vote. "There are other statements I made that I wish I had made more clearly. And there are other statements I made I wish I hadn't made."
"The mood was very open... People said what they thought. Criticism was leveled," said Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska. "There was no apology. There was none requested."
Reid said he still doesn't understand why Lieberman did what he did, but also realizes that his vote was important to pushing through important legislation.
"I defy anyone to be more angry than I was," Reid said. "I don't apologize to anyone for what we did today."
Lieberman and Reid had an awkward meeting just after the election, after which Reid said there had to be consequences for his disloyalty. Then, Lieberman upset Democrats by flirting with possibly switching over to the Republican caucus.
While Lieberman broke with Democrats over the Iraq war, he has been caucusing with them on most other issues, in some cases providing the 51st and majority vote. During the campaign, however, he became one of McCain's most visible cheerleaders, and even spoke at the Republican National Convention.
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.