Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott said yesterday that the Senate's rebuke of him sponsored by Sen. John McCain was "uncalled for," and the feud between the two powerful Republicans shows no sign of abating.
"We could have worked it out without doing this, but John had the bit in his mouth," Mr. Lott told a select group of reporters invited to his office. "I thought it was an uncalled-for action."
Senators were still shaking their heads in disbelief yesterday over Mr. McCain's figurative slap to Mr. Lott's face by calling a vote Tuesday to compel him to send the Senate-passed campaign finance bill to the House. The nonbinding measure was approved, 61-36.
"It's the first time in my 20 years in the Senate I can recall something like that happening," said Sen. Don Nickles, Oklahoma Republican and assistant majority leader. "I'll leave it at that."
The Senate approved Mr. McCain's campaign finance bill 44 days ago, a measure that would ban large, unregulated "soft money" donations to political parties and restrict advertising by advocacy groups.
But Mr. Lott has yet to send the bill to the House. The delay has little or no short-term impact on the legislation, but it has annoyed Mr. McCain to no end.
"There is no good rationale for this arbitrary action," he told his colleagues on the Senate floor.
A spokesman for Mr. Lott quickly sent word after Tuesday's vote that the majority leader would, in fact, send the bill to the House soon. But yesterday Mr. Lott refused to be pinned down on when he will do that.
"It'll be sent over," he told reporters. "Anything else?"
Asked if there would be repercussions from the rebuke by the Arizona Republican, Mr. Lott replied, "I try to overlook speeches like that. I don't think they're helpful. Certainly the way John has approached it, and the way it was reported in the media, hasn't helped the relationship and my attitude about it. …