Unchallenged Lott Keeps His Position as Majority Leader: Senator Makes Communication a Priority

By Roman, Nancy E. | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), December 2, 1998 | Go to article overview

Unchallenged Lott Keeps His Position as Majority Leader: Senator Makes Communication a Priority


Roman, Nancy E., The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


Sen. Trent Lott, re-elected majority leader yesterday by fellow Republicans, acknowledged making mistakes last term and vowed not to repeat them.

"We've got to do a lot better job. I've got to do a lot better job," the Mississippi Republican said, noting that the party failed in the last elections to communicate the party's legislative achievements.

"You can't hold your breath and hope things will work themselves out."

Despite election results that defied the high expectations of the GOP and culminated in the resignation of House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Mr. Lott was unopposed for his leadership post.

In the only contested race inside the closed-door Republican caucus, Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky was re-elected chairman of the campaign committee over his freshman challenger, Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, by a vote of 39-13.

Many expected Mr. McConnell, who led the National Republican Campaign Committee in 1998 and will now do so again in 2000, to bear the brunt of discontent over election losses.

"I guess there isn't much dissatisfaction," Mr. Hagel said after the vote. "That's the message."

On the committee front, Sen. John W. Warner of Virginia will take over the Armed Services Committee from Sen. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, who is stepping down. The longest-serving senator turns 96 on Saturday.

Sen. Phil Gramm, Texas Republican, will head the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, which had been chaired by Sen. Alfonse M. D'Amato. The New York Republican was defeated for another six-year term last month by Democrat Rep. Charles E. Schumer.

Mr. Lott met on Monday with House Speaker-elect Robert L. Livingston, the Louisiana Republican replacing Mr. Gingrich. The two concurred that Congress should pass a budget blueprint early next year, and deal with the spending bills earlier next term to avoid the time crunch that can lead to sloppy legislation and intensified partisanship.

Mr. Lott, 57, said he will aim to achieve an across-the-board cut in income-tax rates.

He said the Senate also will try to eliminate the marriage penalty, improve schools, and explore the relationship between drugs and crime.

Mr. Lott said the lawmaking body would map a more specific legislative agenda over the next couple of days as House and Senate leaders meet with each other and GOP governors.

Mr. Lott failed to mention Social Security reform among items he hoped to tackle. When asked about it, he made clear that he will wait for President Clinton to take the lead. …

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