Trent Lott Could Rejoin GOP Leadership

Trent Lott, who was forced to resign as Senate Majority Leader two years ago after praising Strom Thurmond, may be about to rejoin the leadership team after his behind-the-scenes work in orchestrating last week’s deal on judicial filibusters.

Work on nominees could return Lott to ranks of GOP leadership (Knight Ridder)

For months, Sen. Trent Lott pulled a list of names from his pocket and told anyone who listened that he had the votes to trigger the “nuclear option” – the change in the Senate’s rules that would ease the way for President Bush’s judicial nominees. At the same time, the Mississippi Republican worked quietly to avert it.

Lott wasn’t among the 14 senators who signed the pact on Monday that forestalled a Senate showdown. Publicly, he was dismissive. “Whenever that coalition needs to be picked apart,” he said, “we’ll pick it apart.” But senators involved in the talks say Lott was instrumental in pushing the Senate to the brink of a historic clash – and in pulling it back. It was a remarkable role for the former Senate leader whose career was nearly ruined by an ill-advised tribute to the late Sen. Strom Thurmond two-and-a-half years ago that made him sound nostalgic for the days of segregation.

In the end, by maneuvering behind the scenes, Lott displayed more flexibility than the man who replaced him at the helm of the Senate, Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn. – and he may have enhanced a political rehabilitation that could return him to the leadership ranks. “He probably wanted everything,” Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, the leading Democrat in the negotiations, said of Lott’s opposition to judicial filibusters. “But he’s been a leader here, he’s been through the wars and he didn’t start off with that as the demand. … If you’ve got all the votes, then you compromise because you choose to.”

While Lott was an ineffective Majority Leader even aside from the Thurmond fiasco, he was a consumate legislative pro. He worked himself into the top ranks of the House GOP leadership and quickly did the same in the upper chamber once moving to the Senate. One doesn’t do that without the ability to make deals.

Related: Trent Lott: The Comeback Kid?

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. praktike says:

    Hoo-boy. He sure screwed Frist.

  2. I continue to maintain that “ineffective Majority Leader” is a redundancy–no matter who holds the office.

  3. James Joyner says:

    Steven: Fair point. Daschle did an effective job as an obstructionist, as did Dole when Clinton was in office. It’s been a while, though, since there was an effective leader in a positive sense.

  4. McGehee says:

    Sure — put Trent Lott back in the leadership. That’ll get the money rolling in again from all the grassroots Republicans who were angry about … the filibuster “deal.”

    (Think maybe somebody outghta rethink this idea?)

  5. ozzippit says:

    Less Lott is more.

  6. TJIT says:

    Upon hearing this the democrats are probably having two reactions at the same time. First, hoping it happens because they can beat him like a drum with the comments that led to him leaving his leadership position. Second, laughing their merry little behind off at the fact that losin again lott is the only new leader the republicans can come up with.

    Lott’s ability to make deals mostly consisted of giving the democrats their way. Which is the last thing we need right now.

    Did I mention what a bunch worthless, weak kneed, cowardly, pathetic, disgusting republican leadership we have. And what is really sad is that is their good points

  7. McGehee says:

    The leadership of the Senate Republicans does reflect the caliber of Senate Republicans.

    What we need is some better quality Republicans in the Senate.

  8. Biithead says:

    I wonder if a ‘dealer’ is really what’s needed, versus someone willing to ride roughshod on the Democrats, and push the Republican agenda through… as the Democrats certainly did for over 60 years.