Lieberman and the ‘not-so-normal suspects’

You think there’s gridlock in the U.S. Senate now? Just wait until January, when the chamber is even more sharply divided (53 Democrats, 47 Republicans) and both camps are well short of the magic 60-votes needed to break a filibuster.

Sen. Joseph Lieberman says this could be a political mess-or a great opening. Connecticut’s soon-to-be senior senator, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats and has been accused of flirting with the GOP, says he’s trying form a new bipartisan group in the Senate to bridge the deep divide.

In a conference call with reporters Thursday evening, Lieberman said he’s been in discussions with lawmakers in both parties to see “if we can get people meeting across party lines to talk about the big issues, like energy.”

Lieberman declined to get into details, saying only that his talks involved the “normal suspects and some not-so-normal suspects.”

“I have a lot of friends on the Republican side and I do think I’ve got an opportunity to make a contribution here, to build consensus up to 60,” Lieberman said. “But it’s not going to be easy … This may be a do-little or do-nothing Congress.”

And although Lieberman said little new about his own plans for 2012, when he’ll be up for re-election, there were some hints. For starters, he said it’s safe to assume that “anyone in office will seek office again unless and until they announce that they’re not.”

When pressed on how hard it could be for him to win if he faces a strong challenge from both the left and the right, he said: “It looked pretty tough last time too and everything worked out all right.”