Wednesday, November 15, 2006

senate leadership elections create a stir in washington

The halls of the U.S. Senate are abuzz with the news of the Senate Republican leadership elections. Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky was unanimously voted on to replace outgoing GOP Leader Sen. Bill Frist, who did not seek re-election. Sen. Trent Lott of Mississippi was elected by a razor-thin margin to the post of Minority Whip.

Lott beat out Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee for the position by one vote. Alexander, who had previously stated that he'd received more than 30 pledges, lost with 24 votes to Lott's 25.

In 2002, Lott was forced to resign as Senate Majority Leader over comments he made that were considered racially-charged. At an event for segregationist Strom Thurmond, Lott suggested that "we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years" if American voters had elected Thurmond president. President Bush was quick to say that Lott's opinion was not the opinion of the White House.

The National Jewish Democratic Council warns that we should be deeply concerned by Lott's re-entrance into the party leadership.
In 1987, just before announcing his 1988 candidacy for the Senate, Lott likened his campaign to a "crusade." The Washington Post reported that he told the Christian audience, "Conservative, G-d-fearing, hard-working Christian people make a mistake by not being more aggressive. This is our country and it's time we take it back."
Senate Democrats elected their leadership slate on Tuesday, allowing their previous leadership to have a promotion. The senators that led the Democrats through the minority era will now control the Senate.

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 North Dakota will serve as chairman of the research-focused policy committee.

House Democrats will pick their leaders Thursday; House Republicans hold leadership elections on Friday.

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