Delegation reacts coolly to Lieberman

U.S. Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman’s refusal to endorse Richard Blumenthal or campaign for the Democratic majority is stretching the patience of Connecticut’s congressional delegation.

“It’d be nice to know which side people stand on,” said U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy, D-5th District.

U.S. Rep. John B. Larson, D-1st District, said Lieberman appears to be “auditioning for the Republican Party.”

Lieberman, an independent who is a member of the Democratic caucus, said today that he is rooting for Democrats to retain their majority, if only so he can continue as a committee chairman.

But he will not endorse Blumenthal, the Democratic nominee to succeed retiring Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, or make the case that Democratic policies are preferable to those of Republicans.

U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3rd District, and U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, said it should be easy to take sides in Washington.

“It’s about jobs. It’s about the economy,” DeLauro said. “That’s the Democratic agenda.”

Nor did the delegation share Lieberman’s enthusiasm for the weekend announcement by House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, that he would support extension of tax cuts for lower-earning households even if cuts for couples earning $250,000 and over aren’t continued.

Courtney said Boehner is clear that his agenda is focused on spending the next two years undermining President Obama.

“It’s a country-be-damned agenda,” Courtney said. “I think that’s two times with Mitch McConnell.”

McConnell, a Republican of Kentucky, is the Senate minority leader.

All four Democrats, who held a joint press conference in Hartford to promote a stimulus grant that they say will improve Internet service and create jobs, reacted with suspicion to Boehner’s statement over the weekend that he may support extending the tax cuts for the middle class.

Boehner had been maintaining an all-or-nothing stance: Extend all of the Bush-era tax cuts, including those that benefited high earners, or face GOP opposition.

Murphy said Boehner is trying to neutralize a Democratic issue.

“Unfortunately, almost everything these days for John Boehner seems to be for political calculus,” Murphy said. “He understands that it’s just not tenable to hold middle-class tax relief hostage to tax relief for a handful of millionaires.”

“I definitely think it’s political posturing,” Larson said. “But, hey, it’s the season.”

Larson said Lieberman has been a “great partner” with the rest of the delegation on many issues, despite the strain created by his endorsement of Republican John McCain for president in 2008.

He declined to say if a refusal to advocate for Democrats in 2010 rules out Lieberman’s running for re-election as a Democrat in 2012.

“I think that Joe will decide whether he has a future running for the U.S. Senate or not,” Larson said.