Trent Lott New Old Face of Senate Republicans
I’m just back from vacation and this is my first chance to write about the bizarre decision of the Senate Republicans to bring Trent Lott back to the leadership.
Mississippi Sen. Trent Lott, ousted from the top Senate Republican leadership job four years ago because of remarks considered racially insensitive, won election to the No. 2 post Wednesday for the minority GOP in the next Congress. But Lott deferred to newly elected party leader Mitch McConnell when asked whether he feels vindicated by the 25-24 secret ballot. “The spotlight belongs on him,” Lott said of his Kentucky colleague, unanimously chosen to succeed Sen. Bill Frist as the top-ranking Senate GOP leader.
But Lott’s comeback-kid victory was generating the most buzz in the Capitol hallways. Lott, who was pressured to step down from the Senate’s top spot more than four years ago, returned to the center of power by nosing out Sen. Lamar Alexander, who had made an 18-month bid for the post.
“I’m honored to be a part of this leadership team, to support Mitch McConnell and all of my colleagues and to do a job that I’ve really loved the most: count the votes,” Lott said. “I’ll do my very best in that effort.”
His victory over Alexander showcases Lott’s lobbying and vote-counting skills. Both men spent the night before intensely lobbying colleagues on the Senate floor — with Lott, also a former whip, casting himself as the candidate more adept at dealmaking and Alexander pledging to be a morale-booster to a caucus still smarting over the midterm elections.
There’s no doubt that Lott is a skilled legislative wrangler and that Alexander is a relative neophyte. Still, Lamar! is not tainted and would have been a sign that the party is moving forward rather than backward. Apparently, the Senate Republicans would rather help bolster the party’s image as one dominated by Southern racists than risk getting outmaneuvered in parliamentary procedures by Dick Durbin.