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Senator Tom Daschle Discusses Senate Power Shift

Aired June 5, 2001 - 14:26   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, they keep coming to the microphones there at Capitol Hill.

Now it's Senator Daschle, whom we have been focusing on here on CNN LIVE TODAY, who assumes the leadership tomorrow.

SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MINORITY LEADER: ... Secondary Education Act. We're going to move on from there to the patients' bill of rights. We recognize we have a lot of appropriations bills. There are a number of other issues that we think are very important: election reform, the prescription drug benefit, the minimum wage, hate crimes. Those issues also I think merit our consideration, and hopefully we can work with our Republican colleagues to address those and many other issues. Energy is also an issue that I think has to be dealt with some time early, rather than late.

I would also say that, of course, this week our hope is that we can move quickly on an organizing resolution. The precedent for an organizing resolution under these circumstances was set in the 83rd Congress. There you had virtually an equal number of Republicans and Democrats with one independent, and we're hoping that we can take that precedent, along with the colloquy that Senator Lott and I had under the power-sharing arrangement that anticipated that perhaps we could be facing a reorganization of the Senate. And during our colloquy at that time, we said that it was our expectation that the majority party would have a one-vote margin.

So my organizing resolution that I've submitted to our Republican colleagues really has just two very simple pieces: number one, the majority party would have a one-vote margin in committees; and number two, we would work with our Republican colleagues to determine whether that is an additional Democrat or a reduction of one Republican. So we can work that out, and I would be hopeful that we could do it relatively soon.

We have a lot of things we're going to do. We're going to get off on what I hope will be the right foot -- a positive and constructive foot. And it will involve working together to see just how much we can get done.

I really, truly believe that bipartisanship isn't an option; it is a requirement. And it is all the more a requirement now under these circumstances.

QUESTION: Senator Daschle, what kind of difficulty do you expect to have with the Republicans, given the fact that (OFF-MIKE)

DASCHLE: Well, I realize that, obviously, there is a great deal of skepticism about our desire and just what kind of an environment we could expect. I think we have to deal with that skepticism. I have to prove myself to our Republican colleagues, and I hope I can do so.

QUESTION: Senator, from a practical standpoint, and for viewers back home who may not understand the ins and outs of all this, could you explain what advantage you get from a one-vote majority in committee?

DASCHLE: Well, of course, a one-vote majority, or being in the majority, regardless of how many votes one has, allows you two very important prerogatives. The first is the committee agenda: what is taken up in committees, what kind of hearings, what kind of votes, what kind of bills. And, of course, the schedule of the Senate is determined by the majority, in consultation -- I emphasize that -- in consultation with the minority. I hope to consult all along with our Republican colleagues, and especially the Republican leader.

QUESTION: Senator, when will offer a resolution on the floor? And, if the Republicans choose to oppose or block it with some maneuver, whether it's a filibuster or not, what are the implications of the last organizing resolution putting Republican majorities on those same committees?

DASCHLE: Well, I haven't decided when I will offer it. I'm going to have a meeting with five Republican colleagues this afternoon. And as long as we're negotiating in good faith, I -- or clarify, there isn't a lot to negotiate, obviously. But to whatever extent clarification and further discussions are necessary, I'm more than happy to accommodate the Republican caucus -- as long as do not have a new resolution, the Congress reverts back to the last one which was passed, and in this case, of course, that would be the 106th resolution, not the power-sharing agreement. The power-sharing agreement terminates as of tonight, and so we are without an organizing resolution for this Congress, and under the Senate rules we revert back to the 106th Congress, under those circumstances.

QUESTION: Senator Lott's memo went out to Republican opinion leaders, said that your leadership, the Democratic leadership of the Senate, lacks the moral authority of a mandate from the voters, because it happened after the election, behind closed doors. What do you make of that?

DASCHLE: Well, I'll let Senator Lott speak for himself. I'm sure you asked him that question. I believe I have the moral authority, as any majority leader would have with a 51-49 margin, and I look forward to working with Senator Lott all the way through on all the issues. He is the leader. I respect him, and continue to believe that he'll be a productive and cooperative partner.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

DASCHLE: Well, obviously, people were very welcoming Senator Jeffords. This is a historic moment. This has never happened before in our nation's history. I think we recognize the extraordinary gravity of the situation, the extraordinary opportunity it presents to the Senate. And I think, now, we have to recognize our responsibilities with this new historic opportunity.

QUESTION: Do you feel any pressure to move quickly because of the tenuousness of your majority and the fact that it could have another unprecedented switch back?

DASCHLE: I don't feel any undue pressure. I think we've got a job to do and we're going to do it beginning tomorrow. We know what we've got to do and I hope we can do it well. I hope we can make the people of our country proud. I hope we can make our party proud, but in that order.

We have a lot of things we can do together. There are a lot of things that enjoy bipartisan support, and you're going to see that effort to reach out and create bipartisan coalitions.

QUESTION: What is your response to the Republicans' demands on the judicial nominations?

DASCHLE: Until I've had the opportunity to talk to our Republican colleagues directly, I don't think I ought to comment on their suggestions. I have not seen them. They have not presented them to me at this point. So I think it would be premature for me to make any comment until I have seen them.

ALLEN: Senator Tom Daschle: his final day as minority leader. Tomorrow, he is majority leader.

And he will join CNN live at 7:00 a.m. in the morning on his first full day as the majority leader, talking like we have heard others talk today on Capitol Hill, singing a note of "We can all get along here," as we have this dynamic change on the Hill with Senator Jeffords becoming an independent officially.

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