WASHINGTON (CNN) - Sen. Joe Lieberman retained his chairmanship of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Tuesday following a lengthy and often heated debate over what - if any - price the Connecticut Democrat-turned-Independent should pay for his vocal support of Republican Sen. John McCain's presidential bid.
The Senate Democratic caucus, meeting behind closed doors, voted 42 to 13 to allow Lieberman to keep the high-profile chairmanship. The party's 2000 vice presidential nominee was instead stripped of his spot on the Environment and Public Works Committee.
"It's all over with," Majority Leader Harry Reid said at a news conference following the vote. "Joe Lieberman is a Democrat. He's part of this caucus."
Reid dismissed vehement criticism of the decision from elements of the party's more liberal base, which has insisted that Lieberman be punished for failing to support President-elect Barack Obama's campaign.
Reid instead argued that this is "not a time for retribution. It's a time for moving forward on the problems of this country... We need to be unified."
"I would defy anyone to be more angry than I was," Reid noted. "There's a period of time in Joe Lieberman's political career that I will never understand or approve. But I also recognize that.... (he is) one of the most progressive members to come from the state of Connecticut and that says a lot."
Reid also pointed out that that the Democrats could not have had a Senate majority during the past two years without Lieberman's decision to remain in the party caucus.
Speaking at the same press conference, Lieberman called the resolution allowing him to keep the Homeland Security chairmanship "fair and forward leaning."
"It's a resolution... of reconciliation and not retribution, and I appreciate it," he noted.
Lieberman said that a number of his Democratic colleagues in the Senate were moved by an appeal from Obama himself that "the nation now unite to confront our very serious problems.... This is all about going forward."
Lieberman broke with his party over the war in Iraq and ran as an independent after losing the party's Connecticut Senate nomination in 2006.
He was a fixture on the campaign trail with Sen. McCain.
- CNN Congressional Correspondent Dana Bash contributed to this report