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?