Trent Lott Makes Senate Leadership Comeback - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

11/15/06-WASHINGTON

Trent Lott Makes Senate Leadership Comeback

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.

Lott returned to the center of power by getting the position of vote-counting GOP whip, nosing out Sen. Lamar Alexander. Sen. Rick Santorum told reporters that Lott beat Alexander by a 25-24 vote.

After an intense evening in which both men lobbied colleagues during floor votes, the Republican caucus elected Lott, a one-time whip and majority leader, by secret ballot. Lott will be the GOP's second-in-command to Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who was elected unanimously to be the Senate minority leader in the new Congress.

With the midterm elections finished and Santorum, another candidate for the post, failing to win re-election, Lott cast himself as the more experienced candidate and the better choice for a job.

The Tennessee senator was not new to the art of counting votes among finicky colleagues, any one of whom can use Senate procedure to hold up business or kill legislation. A former Cabinet secretary and governor and now a deputy Republican whip, Alexander cast himself as a morale-booster for a demoralized Republican caucus.

Remaining neutral was McConnell, who was uncontested to be the Republican minority leader. He'll replace Sen. Bill Frist, R-Tennessee, who is retiring from the Senate under a self-imposed term limit and is a potential contender for the GOP presidential nomination in two years.

The GOP whip's race was but one source of suspense in the wake of the midterm balloting, in which war-weary voters stripped President Bush's party of its majority. Congress returned to a lame-duck session to pass a budget, and the Senate was considering Bush's nomination of a new defense secretary.

Democrats retain leadership

On Tuesday, Senate Democrats elected their leadership roster after voting in the opulent privacy of the Old Senate Chamber.

Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada and Minority Whip Richard Durbin of Illinois will ascend to majority leader and majority whip, respectively.

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-New York, will continue as the chairman of the party's campaign fundraising committee. Schumer also will add vice chairman to his title, making him No. 3 in the leadership and a chief strategist.

Sen. Patty Murray of Washington will serve as conference secretary; Debbie Stabenow of Michigan will chair the steering committee; and Byron Dorgan of South Dakota will serve as chairman of the research-focused policy committee.

House Democrats choose their leaders on Thursday; House Republicans elect theirs on Friday.

Source: AP

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