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Sens. Daschle and Lott Deliver Remarks at Swearing in of 107th Congress

Aired January 3, 2001 - 12:06 p.m. ET


JEANNE MESERVE, CNN ANCHOR: Senator Tom Daschle speaking now. Let's listen to what he has to say.

SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MAJORITY LEADER: On behalf of the entire Senate, but especially this senator, let me welcome you back to the United States Senate, Mr. President.

This is an historic day. Never before in the history of our nation have we had a 50-50 Senate. I'd like to welcome and congratulate all 11 of our newly elected senators and the family members and friends who are here to share this important day with them.

Years after he left the White House, Harry Truman wrote that the decade he spent in this Senate were the happiest years of his life. As our new colleagues begin their senate careers, we hope that they, too, are beginning what will be the happiest years of their lives.

Several of our departing colleagues are also here with us today. To them we say, thank you. Thank you for sharing with us and with our nation some of the best years of your lives. Thank you for the contributions you have made to our nation during your years of public life. And thank you for the important contributions you will continue to make in the coming years. It has been a pleasure and an honor to work with each of you.

The writer, Thomas Wolfe, said that America is a place where miracles not only happen, they happen all the time. Today we experience one of those miracles, the peaceful transition of power from one Congress to the other. Some people say that it will take another miracle for this Congress and administration to find a way to work together.

As we begin this historic Congress, let us resolve that we will work in good faith, with each other, to do the people's business. That is our pledge from this side of the aisle, and we know that our colleagues on the other side of the aisle feel as we do.

Finally, on a personal note, it is a high honor to have the privilege of officially opening this Senate. When I first ran for Democratic leader six years ago, I thought that if I won, I would be majority leader. I must confess that in six years as minority leader, I had a moment or two when I wondered if that day would ever arrive. But I assure you I intend to savor every one of the next 17 days.


I know we are all looking forward to a bipartisan and a productive 107th Congress that will serve our country well. It is an honor to be a part of this Congress and to be able to work once again with my friend and my colleague, Senator Lott.

And I would now ask unanimous consent that the Republican leader be permitted to speak.

AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Without objection, the majority leader, Senator Lott is recognized.


SEN. TRENT LOTT (R-MS), MINORITY LEADER: Thank you, Mr. President. And I thank the courtesy of the distinguished majority leader for this opportunity to speak. And I want to extend also the appreciation of the Senate and a grateful nation to the presiding officer, the vice president of the United States for the service that he has given to our country.


GORE: Thank you, thank you.

The chair will remind the Senate that boisterous demonstrations are against the rules of the Senate.


LOTT: It's obvious, Mr. President, that you have still maintained your sense of humor. But I want to thank you for your leadership and also for the example that you have set through a very difficult time. You took the appropriate step, and now we're prepared to move into a transition and to a new administration.

And here in the Senate also we are having a historic experience. And I'd like to welcome all of the new senators that are joining us here today. I congratulate them. I look forward to working with the new senators on both sides of the aisle.

And, as Senator Daschle said, also extend again our appreciation to the senators that may be here in the chamber that are retiring or leaving the Senate that have served here, most of them for at least six years, and some of them for much longer than that. They've done a lot to make this country a better place to live.

And also to extend appreciation to the extended family of the Senate, our staff members new and old, and to the families that are here in the gallery today. A lot of the people here -- and I realize we should not be referring to those in the gallery, but there are a lot of people that have made an awful lot of contribution and sacrifice to make this day possible for us here in the chamber.

And so we have a lot of people we need to thank. And also to realize that we are in a position where we can make this a better country, even better, in the future.

To the new members, I urge them to take a look around and think about the challenges and the opportunities they will have here. It is a unique institution, created by the founders of this republic. Quite often, we are frustrated with the rules, frustrated even today, that we're going through this unique situation, but they had a lot of foresight.

And they created this unique Senate that makes sure that we take the time to think through an issue and to have full debate. And while sometimes we feel, one side or the other, that we didn't have an ample opportunity for debate, I'm sure we're going to work together to find a way to give everybody that opportunity over the next six years.

For those of us that have been here a few years, we also face new challenges here. We have one today. I must say that it's the first time I've ever been referred to as the minority leader. And while it beats certain alternatives, I like the other title better.

But we're showing here today, and I hope we will show during the next 17 days, and more importantly during the months beyond that, that we will always find a way to work together. It's quite often not easy to find consensus as is forced upon us quite often in the Senate, but we must strive for it. And quite often, Senator Daschle and I do our very best to find a logical solution to a problem or an agreement, and we have 98 other senators that may not agree with what we can come up with.

But we will continue to work together to make this great republic the best and the most outstanding the minds of men have ever created to work as it should.

I look around the chamber on both sides of the aisle and I see men and women with the potential to raise this country up to an even higher level, to our highest and our best.

And I will work, as the leader of my party, and in 17 days the majority leader of the Senate, to find a way to make that possible.

One bit of information from a housekeeping standpoint: We will have some housekeeping resolutions here in a moment that we will do. One of them is to begin the introduction of bills on January 22, and senators should be prepared to have amendments or bills ready.

Senator Daschle and I have already talked about that. We will do the usual alternating, first five on one side and then other, and I believe we do that for the first 20 bills. And there'll be a lot of other announcements that Senator Daschle and I will make.

So I thank you for this opportunity. I thank you for the opportunity, on my side of the aisle, for this leadership role. And together we go forward. I yield the floor, Mr. President. There will be a lot of other annoucements

MESERVE: We're listening to the U.S. Senate, where we have heard Trent Lott and Tom Daschle both say their welcomes to senators being sworn in today, their farewells to those who are leaving.

Also an unusual moment when Sen. Lott said his thank yous to the president of the Senate. That's Vice President Al Gore. Lott congratulated him for "taking the appropriate step." That a reference to his eventual concession to George W. Bush. Bush, of course, will become the next president of this country on the 20th of this month.

Chris Black still standing by on Capitol Hill.

Chris, before we went to the Senate floor, you were explaining that for just these 17 days, the Democrats are in control. That's why we heard Tom Daschle first, correct?

CHRIS BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right. It's a real role reversal, Jeanne. For the next 17 days, Tom Daschle will be the majority leader. That's because Al Gore is still the incumbent vice president and therefore the president of the Senate. He presides over the Senate. And because the Senate is divided evenly between the two parties, 50/50, he is the tie breaker.

So for the next 17 days, Tom Daschle will be majority leader, Robert Byrd will be elected later this afternoon president pro tem, which is an honor that is reserved for the most senior member in charge. And the Democrats will take over chairing the committee for this next critical period when the Senate takes its first look at Gov. George W. Bush's nominees for his Cabinet.

MESERVE: Chris, talk from Sen. Daschle about his hopes for bipartisanship. What's the outlook? And, by the way, as we talk, we can see the first group of senators going up to the podium. They're going to be taking their oath of office in just a moment.

BLACK: Well, Tom Daschle says that his mantra for these next 17 days is "be nice." Tom Daschle is very determined to set an example, he says, for his Republican colleagues to show that there is a way for Democrats and Republicans to get along. The two leaders, Trent Lott and Tom Daschle, are still involved in very intense negotiations to determine how they will share power in the Senate. Sen. Lott has been talking to Daschle privately about this. But he is getting a lot of resistance from Republican senators who do not want Democrats to have as many votes as they do on committees.

Now, this seems to be an arcane to a lot of people, but I must assure you it is important. It determines the nature of legislation that comes out of committee. And one other important point is that the minority leader, who will be Tom Daschle after the 20th, wants the right to be able to be recognized on the floor, the right of first recognition, so that he can also bring measures to the floor. Very important thing and very much resisted by Republican senators who do not want to give up any power in this 50/50 Senate. MESERVE: And how might this bruising election we've just been through affect the tenor of this session?

BLACK: Well, I must tell you, Jeanne, that the Hill has been a partisan cauldron for years, ever since Republicans took over control of the House. It only got worse throughout the investigation of President Clinton and through impeachment. And in the last two years up here, very little of substance was able to get done because of the partisan rancor. There is a very deep philosophical divide between Democrats and Republicans. Over the last 25 years, we have seen the Republicans become more conservative, Democrats become more liberal, so it's very, very hard for them to find common ground. And it's that philosophical difference in approach to issues -- they all agree on what the issues are -- but how -- what to do about them really divides them. And it's going to be a very -- a big challenge for the next president, George W. Bush.

MESERVE: Now we see some of the senators who have just been sworn in signing into a book there in the Senate. In the next group, a very interesting case: Jean Carnahan. Talk to us, Chris, a little bit about her.

BLACK: Well, Jean Carnahan was married to Mel Carnahan, who was the governor of Missouri and was involved in a very, very tough campaign against John Ashcroft, the incumbent Republican senator from Missouri. He actually looked like he was going to win. And about 2 1/2 weeks before the election...

MESERVE: We're going to listen to proceedings here in the Senate. What we're watching is the swearing in of senators who have just been elected. Here we see the second group heading up to the podium. We were just talking with Chris Black about Jean Carnahan. She is one of this crowd. Her husband killed in a plane crash just weeks before the election. His name was still on the ballot, he won, she was named to that job. But the man who she defeated, John Ashcroft, has been nominated now to be attorney general of the United States. His hearings promise to be quite contentious. We see Mrs. Carnahan there coming up in the yellow jacket.

Now we listen...

BLACK: Mrs. Carnahan...

MESERVE: Go ahead, Chris.

BLACK: I'm sorry, Jeanne.

Mrs. Carnaham was appointed to take the term of her husband. Mel Carnahan died tragically 2 1/2 weeks before the election in a plane crash with his son and a campaign aide. But the voters of Missouri narrowly elected him to Senate, beating the incumbent, John Ashcroft, who, as you noted, will have very difficult hearings for his nomination as attorney general. So Jean Carnahan was named by the governor of Missouri to take her husband's place. She will serve for the next two years as the junior senator from Missouri.

MESERVE: And, meanwhile, Chris some of the Cabinet hopefuls making the rounds on Capitol Hill.

BLACK: They are in the midst of all this chaos today. There were at least three designated members of the next Cabinet who came to make courtesy calls on the Hill: John Ashcroft, who only had to move over a couple of office building to visit Orrin Hatch, the chairman of the Judiciary, made a long call on him today; Paul O'Neill, the designated Treasury secretary; and Don Evans, who is the commerce secretary. Robert Byrd will be elected president pro tem today, a position reserved for the most senior member of the presiding party. He is the most senior member of the Democratic Party, the senator from West Virginia.

MESERVE: There we see Mrs. Carnahan signing in the book now.

Can you tell us about this book which they're signing?

BLACK: This is a tradition. They sign the book. They're sort of officially signing in, if you will, Jeanne. They initially -- at the beginning of this proceeding, they present the certificates of election. And this is very much part of the Senate tradition. Each senator signs his or her name, kind of signing in, if you will. It's sort of like first day of class.

MESERVE: And in the next group, of course, will be Hillary Rodham Clinton. What's the general Senate reaction to her becoming a member of their club?

BLACK: Well, it's really mixed. I think she will be welcomed both by Democrats and Republicans. There are a lot of conservative Republican who obviously disagree quite strongly with her. But Mrs. Clinton is not an unfamiliar figure up here. And, in fact, every time she has come to the Hill to testify -- let's listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Chafee of Rhode Island, Mrs. Clinton of New York, Mr. Conrad of North Dakota, Mr. Corzine of New Jersey.

MESERVE: And this is history: a first lady being sworn in as a member of the U.S. Senate.


GORE: Welcome, come on up here. Yes, thank you.

Congratulations. So proud of you.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Vice President.

GORE: Congratulations.


GORE: Congratulations. Welcome. Congratulations to you. Would you raise your right hand, please? Do you solemnly swear that you will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic; that you will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that you take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion, and that you will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which you are about to enter, so help you God?


GORE: Congratulations.


MESERVE: And among those watching today, President Clinton, watching his wife Hillary Rodham Clinton being sworn in, along with others as members of the new Senate of the United States. Quite a moment in history.

Now Mrs. Clinton about to sign into the book.

Chris, you were beginning to tell us about the reaction to Mrs. Clinton's entry into this very exclusive province.

BLACK: Well, as I noted, Jeanne, Republicans on Capitol Hill disagree with Mrs. Clinton on most issues. She is as liberal as they are conservative. But she has been well received when she has testified before -- she's now signing the book, signing in, as all the other senators will do today, at the beginning of a six-year term representing the state of New York -- Jeanne.

MESERVE: Chris Black on Capitol Hill, thank you.

And there you see it, the new members of the U.S. Senate one after another, but one of them standing out a bit above the rest simply because of her high national and international profile. That, of course, being Hillary Rodham Clinton, first lady, and now U.S. senator from the state of New York.



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