Lieberman Expects Unfriendly Welcome Back From Senate Colleagues

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Sen. Joe Lieberman, whose independent re-election bid has rankled Democrats, says he expects a cold shoulder or two from Senate colleagues when he returns to Washington next week.

"Obviously, some of my colleagues may be coming up more directly to embrace me, some may be looking to avoid eye contact," the Connecticut senator said in a telephone interview Thursday with The Associated Press. "I'm just going to do my job and that will be that."

The three-term lawmaker is defying his party after his primary loss to Ned Lamont. Democratic leaders, including Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and other prominent senators, have abandoned Lieberman and rallied behind Lamont.

Lieberman said he is determined to stay his independent course — and is careful to separate personal relations from politics.

"I'm intent on making it business as usual as much as possible, which is to do my job for the people of Connecticut," Lieberman said of his return to Capitol Hill.

"I feel like I've got good personal relations with most of my colleagues, apart from the politics," he said. "We're all pros, and campaigns come and go."

He described the Senate as collegial.

"After all is said and done, I've always felt it's basically 100 people working in the same place," the veteran senator said.

Lieberman did not say whether he would attend the traditional Tuesday luncheon with other Democratic senators. He said the demands of the campaign could limit his Washington schedule, though he stressed he would be in the Senate for key votes and other business.

Lieberman, however, said he plans to attend party luncheons when he can.

"My bottom line on the caucus is, if I'm in Washington when a caucus is being held, I will go to the caucus as I normally do," he said.

Lamont, who plans to be in Washington next week for meetings with party leaders, union leaders and business groups, will not attend next week's party luncheon.

Lieberman said he has not asked colleagues for support for his independent campaign.

"I intentionally have not done that," he said. "I know the rules of the political game as it's normally played."

The senator noted that he lost his primary despite endorsements from several prominent Democrats. The vast majority of those Democrats have spurned Lieberman and lined up behind Lamont in the general election.

But Lieberman said he was heartened by the support of five colleagues: Sens. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., Mary Landrieu, D-La., Mark Pryor, D-Ark., Thomas Carper, D-Del., and Ben Nelson, D-Neb.

"I've been really grateful for some of the Democrats who called me up and said they'd stick with me," Lieberman said. "I don't know how much that means in Connecticut, but it means a lot to me."

Lieberman also noted that Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins, who has endorsed him, had also offered to campaign with him. She is chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. Lieberman is the panel's ranking Democrat.

Lieberman said he was returning to Washington with a sense of optimism about his chances in the three-way race that also includes Republican Alan Schlesinger.

"I feel good about where I am in the campaign," he said. "I feel good and it's in that spirit of optimism that I return to Washington next week."