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Democrats Take Control of United States Senate

Aired June 6, 2001 - 11:01   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.
LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: First, we want to get to the changing of the guard on Capitol Hill. The Senate is coming to order, as we showed you. There is a live picture we have there as the opening prayer is being read now. Democratic leaders formally taking the helm there today thanks to a new majority of one.

We are watching this pivotal event in the nation's Capitol, and we're watching it from all angles. Our senior political correspondent Candy Crowley is standing by in our Washington bureau. In Los Angeles, we have our senior political analyst Bill Schneider. And posted on Capitol Hill this morning is our congressional correspondent Jonathan Karl, who is going to bring us up to date now on what's happening in the Senate -- John.

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right now, as soon as that prayer is done on the Senate floor, you will see for the first time, Senator Tom Daschle recognized as the majority leader of the U.S. Senate. For Tom Daschle, this is D-Day in more ways than one. Certainly, Democratic day. He held his first press conference as the majority leader just a few minutes ago it concluded, and he said his majority is a narrow one, but it is clearly a majority.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN, TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MAJORITY LEADER: Anytime you have 51 votes, you've got a majority; a clean, clear majority. We have that. I'll be setting 51 place settings in my caucus every week from here on out, and by any definition, that's a majority. But I also recognize it's a very, very slim majority, and just as President Bush, I hope, would recognize that he has a very, very slim majority, that the tenuous nature of our majorities require that we act accordingly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KARL: Now as soon as Daschle is recognized formally as the majority leader, the first order of business will be for the Senate to select its new president pro tem. The president pro tem is the presiding officer over the Senate. It is currently Strom Thurmond. Primarily a ceremonial post, but it does put him third in line for the presidency, behind only the vice president and the speaker of the House of Representatives. The new president pro tem will be Senator Robert Byrd.

But for the first time, there will also be another position, president pro tem emeritus. They will give Strom Thurmond, the longest-serving senator in U.S. history, that new post. Leon, that's about how it looks right now.

HARRIS: All right, well, let's bring in now our Candy Crowley, who's standing by in our Washington bureau.

Candy, you just sat down recently with the outgoing Senate majority leader, Trent Lott. What can you tell us about what's going on behind the scenes here?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, what's going on behind the scenes is Republicans, there's a lot of soul- searching going on right now. It's not so much who lost Jim Jeffords, but how can we keep from losing anybody else, and how can we maybe gain some seats. So, a little bit of politics, a little bit of soul- searching as to what happened in terms of how they might have lost Jim Jeffords and how can they keep it from happening again.

HARRIS: Candy, I hate to interrupt you, Candy, but they're just now recognizing Tom Daschle as the Senate majority leader.

GARY SISCO, SECRETARY OF THE SENATE: To elect Robert C. Byrd, a senator from the state of West Virginia, to be president pro tempore of the Senate of the United States.

BEN. HARRY REID (D), NEVADA: The question is now on the adoption of the resolution, all of those in favor signify by saying aye.

UNIDENTIFIED SENATORS: Aye

REID: Those opposed no. The ayes appear to have it. The ayes do have it, and the resolution is agreed to.

SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MAJORITY LEADER: Mr. President, I move to reconsider to move to table the motion to reconsider.

REID: Without objection.

DASCHLE: Mr. President, I send a resolution to the desk and ask for its immediate consideration.

REID: The clerk will report.

CISCO: Senate Resolution 101, notifying the House of Representatives of the election of a president pro tempore of the Senate.

REID: Questions now on the adoption of the resolution. All of those in favor signify by saying aye.

UNIDENTIFIED SENATORS: Aye.

REID: Those opposed, no. The ayes appear to have it. The ayes do have it. The resolution is agreed to.

DASCHLE: Mr. President, I ask to reconsider and to move to table the motion to reconsider.

REID: Without objection.

KARL: What you see now is Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia being led you up to the chair of the presiding office, the president pro tem of the Senate. He is accompanied by, in addition to Trent Lott, the outgoing or former majority leader and Tom Daschle, the current majority leader, also Senator Rockefeller of his home state, and there walking Byrd up the steps is Harry Reid, who is the assistant majority leader, the number two senator, the number two Democrat in the Senate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... 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.

SEN. ROBERT BYRD (D), WEST VIRGINIA: So help me God, I do.

(APPLAUSE)

KARL: Robert Byrd has been serving in the United States Senate since 1958, and as a matter of fact, he first came up to Capitol Hill as a member of the House in 1952, making him the longest-serving member of Congress in history, serving even longer in Congress as a whole than Strom Thurmond.

He takes -- he is a serious stickler on Senate rules, also himself an author of a history of the U.S. Senate. Let's look at what he says.

BYRD: ... is recognized.

DASCHLE: I send a resolution to the desk and ask for its immediate resolution.

BYRD: The clerk will state the resolution.

SISCO: Senator Resolution 102, notifying the president of the United States of the election of a president pro tempore.

BYRD: Is there an objection to the present consideration of the resolution? (UNINTELLIGIBLE) is done. It is so ordered.

SEN. TRENT LOTT (R-MS), MINORITY LEADER: Mr. President?

BYRD: The minority leader is recognized.

LOTT: Mr. President, I send a resolution -- I send the resolution to the desk and ask for the resolution...

BYRD: If the Republican leader will desist for the moment. The question on the adoption of the resolution. All of those in favor say aye. UNIDENTIFIED SENATORS: Aye.

BYRD: Those opposed, no. The ayes appear to have it. The ayes do have it. The resolution is agreed to.

DASCHLE: To move to reconsider to move to table the motion to reconsider.

BYRD: Without objection, it is so ordered.

LOTT: Mr. President, I have sent a resolution to the desk and asked for its immediate consideration.

BYRD: The clerk will state the title of the resolution.

CISCO: Senate Resolution 103, expressing the thanks of the Senate to the Honorable Strom Thurmond for his service as president pro tempore of the United States Senate and to designate Senator Thurmond as president pro tempore emeritus of the United States Senate.

BYRD: There being no objection to the consideration of the resolution, the question is on the adoption of the resolution. Those in favor say aye.

UNIDENTIFIED SENATORS: Aye.

BYRD: And those opposed no. The ayes appear to have it...

HARRIS: John Karl, standing by there on Capitol Hill, can you give those of us who may not be up to speed on our parliamentary procedures an idea of exactly what is going on here?

KARL: Well, the first thing you saw is by a voice vote the recognition of Senator Robert Byrd as the president pro tem of the U.S. Senator, and the notification of the House of Representatives that is in fact the case. But then, when you saw Trent Lott step up to be recognized, a very unusual step, they thanked Strom Thurmond, the outgoing president pro tem for his service and carved out a new post, strictly ceremonial, but the president pro tem emeritus.

Now, Strom Thurmond, who is 98 years old, and has served in the Congress for nearly 50 years. is not actually here today because he is with the president in Virginia at those D-Day ceremonies because Strom Thurmond was actually in Normandy on D-Day, part of the invading forces. So, Strom Thurmond not actually there to hear the honor, but between Strom Thurmond and Robert Byrd, you have 90 years of service in the U.S. Senate, and clearly two of the longest -- the two longest- serving members in the U.S. Senate in U.S. history and long, long, long time associates.

BYRD: Without objection, the motion to table the motion to reconsider is agreed to.

KARL: Now, when they get through these procedural motions, you will eventually here.. DASCHLE: I want to thank the distinguished senator from South Carolina, Strom Thurmond, for his service to our country and to this body as president pro tempore.

And I want to offer my hearty congratulations to Senator Robert C. Byrd in returning to this high position this morning.

Between the two men, the Senate enjoys 90 years of public service. The wisdom that they have given us is beyond measure.

I want to thank my partner and my counterpart, Senator Lott. This is the second time in a series of challenges that he and I have faced already this year. The most important of which is that we have switched role, is yet another example of our ability to face these challenges together.

Every time we've been presented with these challenges, we've come through our working relationship and our friendship, not only in tact, but in my view, strengthened. It is my hope and my expectation that we will continue to be able to work in this manner.

Finally, there is another person who deserves special recognition, and that is Senator Jeffords. Last week, I was deeply touched by Senator Jeffords courageous decision, his eloquent words. The senator from Vermont has always commanded bipartisan respect because of the work that he does. Regardless of where he sits in this chamber, that is work which will continue, and America will be better for it.

This indeed is a humbling moment for me. I'm honored to serve as majority leader, but I also recognize that the majority is slim. This is still one of the most closely divided Senates in all of history, and we have just witnessed something that has never before happened in all of Senate history, the change of power during a session of Congress.

At a time when Americans are evenly divided about their choice of leaders, they are united in their demand for action. Polarized positions are an indulgence, an indulgence that the Senate cannot afford and our nation will not tolerate.

Republicans and Democrats come to this floor with different philosophies, different agendas. We believe in the power of ideas together, Republicans and Democrats. We believe in fashioning those ideas into sound public policy, Republicans and Democrats.

The debate on that policy is what I like to call the noise of Democracy. Sometimes it's not a very stereophonic sound, sometimes there is too much sound from the right or from the left, but it is a sound that in my view is a beautiful noise, especially in comparison to the noise of violence we see in so many streets and in so many places all over the world today.

DASCHLE: In this divided government, in spite of the passion with which we hold these ideas, in spite of the fervor with which we come to the floor to represent them, we are require to find common ground and seek meaningful bipartisanship.

As I've said before, real bipartisanship is not a mathematical formula; it is a spirit. It is not simply finding a way to 50 plus one. It is a way of working together that tolerates debate. It means seeking principled compromise and respecting the right of each senator to speak his or her mind and to vote his or her conscience.

I believe that in this Senate, at this time, on this historic occasion, each of us has something to prove. We need to prove to the American people that we can overcome the lines that all too often divide us. We need to prove that we can do the work the American people have sent us to do.

I came to the Congress 22 years ago. I had the good fortune of having many mentors, some who I remember so vividly because they continue to guide me today.

Those who are my friends know that one in particular continues to guide me in ways that I articulate on so many occasions. His name was Claude Pepper, a congressman from Florida, once a senator in this body. He told me once on a cold December afternoon that as fervent and as passionate a Democrat as he was, that it wasn't really whether you were a "D" or an "R" that mattered, it's whether you were a "C" or "D." It's whether you were constructive or destructive in the political and legislative process.

I hope I can prove to my colleagues on this side of the aisle that I can be a constructive leader. I hope that we all recognize the difference between constructive and destructive politics and legislative work. I hope in living up to the expectations of the American people and people like Claude Pepper that we can be constructive Republicans and constructive Democrats in dealing with a bipartisan solution to the agenda that we know must be addressed in this body beginning today.

I thank my colleagues for their trust. I thank my colleagues for their friendship. I'm prepared to go to work.

I yield the floor.

(APPLAUSE)

LOTT: Mr. President.

BYRD: The Republican leader.

LOTT: Mr. President, let me first join Senator Daschle in expressing my personal appreciation and great admiration for Senator Thurmond, for the job he has done for so many years for the people of South Carolina and, yes, the people of America.

Today, he is in his beloved South Carolina with the president of the United States. Actually, I believe they're in Bedford South Carolina for the dedication of a memorial for those who lost their lives in Normandy. As our colleagues know, Senator Thurmond landed at Normandy and served so honorably there, and the energy and strength that he exhibited there continues to this very day in the Senate. He is a legend in his own time, and we all admire and appreciate him so much.

Also, I want to congratulate Senator Byrd for assuming this position of president pro tem of the Senate. He certainly is going to need no briefing on the rules. He is the paragon of the rules in the Senate. He is the guardian of the rules. He certainly knows them. He will administer them fairly, and he will preside in the chair in a way that we all will appreciate and will admire.

So to you, Senator Byrd, Mr. President, thank you for what you have done and for what I know you will do as the president pro tempore of the Senate.

I also want to thank our staff members. There are so many people I'd like to recognize that have served the Senate during the period of time that I have been majority leader. The officers, those that are here day in and day out into the night, do such a great job for the Senate, for the senators and for our country, and to all of you, I express my appreciation.

I particularly want to express appreciation to our staff assistants; Elizabeth Edgeworth, who has been secretary of the majority, now secretary of the minority, and to Marty Felony, who has served as secretary of the minority and will be secretary of the majority. They have the answers that we need in the Senate. We can always rely on them as to what the schedule may be based on what the leaders have told them and when the votes will occur, and they do so much to make our life and our job easier here.

But primarily I want to extend my congratulations to also my partner and my friend, Tom Daschle, as majority leader. I also extend to him my hand of continued friendship and commitment to work with him for the interest of the American people. I know he will do an excellent job. I think he has set a very positive tone in his opening remarks, and I told him so when I congratulated him as we shook hands.

LOTT: We have worked together in the past, over the past five years, when I've been the majority leader, through some good times and some tremendous legislative achievements and through some tough times. And sometimes we have been criticized for that, but most of the time I think people understood that we maintain a working relationship, and we did the best we could, as we saw on our jobs and what we thought was right for the Senate and right for the American people.

The good times, we will remember and try to repeat. The bad times have already been forgotten. But there have been clear examples of where we have worked together in a bipartisan way, for the interest of the American people, and it covers the gamut. It has been on financial issues, on transportation and on trade.

At times, sometimes, when we had opposition in our own parties, but we came together because we thought a result was very important. I know that Senator Daschle will find some time that the weight of this job will be as heavy as the weight of Atlas when he carried the earth on his shoulders. And I hope that, on occasion, I can help make that weight a little lighter.

Of course, at one point, Atlas tricked Hercules and dumped that burden off on Hercules. But later on, another trick was employed, and Atlas wound up with this weight back on him, as he was fated to do. Now what is the moral of that story?

(LAUGHTER)

The moral is this job will be tough. We're all going to try to make it bearable and easier for you. And of course, I'm hoping someday the weight will come back where it was fated to be.

(LAUGHTER)

I'm proud of things we have accomplished in the Senate over the past five years. I recall almost exactly five years ago when I became majority leader for a variety of reasons. We were tangled up and couldn't decide how to move, things like insurance portability, minimum wage, chemical weapons treaty. And I felt like the first thing I had to try to do was to get things sort of stood up and moving again. And I had to make some tough decisions, again, which weren't always popular on this side, but which was always tolerated and, in many cases, encouraged by my colleagues on the Republican side of the House.

In fact, we got those things done. People said, well, you'll never get this untangled. Well, in that year 1995, we actually did pass the insurance portability. We did pass safe drinking water legislation.

LOTT: We did pass a minimum wage increase with some small business tax relief included. We completed our appropriations bills. And we had a very good year, and I think -- I know -- that Senator Daschle and I felt good about it. I think most American people did.

I do think we have made a difference in the country over the past six years since we have been in the majority. And I acknowledge that a good portion of that time, obviously, we had a Democrat in the White House, but we have gone from having deficits every year and growing debts to now having the challenge of how do you deal with balanced budgets and surpluses.

It's so different. In fact, sometimes I think it's more difficult when you got what appears to be a surplus, and everybody's saying, "Use it here, there or somewhere else." At least when you were having deficits you could say, "Well, we just don't have enough for all those things."

But we have gone to balanced budgets. We have stopped the raid on Social Security. We have moved people from welfare to the dignity and independence of work. We have lower taxes on families and job creations. We have started to restoring America's military strength. And we returned education dollars to parents and teachers and communities. We passed the soldier's bill of rights, the juvenile justice reform. We're working on education reform.

And there's a long list, which I will ask, Mr. President, the unanimous consent that I include in the record of important bills that we have passed over the past five years.

BYRD: Without objection, it is so ordered.

LOTT: But now we have a challenge before us that is different for me and will be different for Senator Daschle.

Can we come together? Can we find a way to work with this president, President Bush and find common ground? Even on the bill that's pending before us now, education.

We all say we want education reform. And we want a responsible increase in the spending that will go for education. The American people say they want it -- the people in every state, the president and so do we. And yet, we haven't gotten it done yet. Can we come together on education? I think we can. It's going to take work. It's going to take some sacrifice. Senator Kennedy is going to continue push it aggressively. And he's probably going to have to cast some votes he doesn't particularly like and so am I and so will Senator Gregg.

But can we do no less? Can we afford not to finally make progress on education reform and take some steps for the federal government to be helpful in improving education in America? I believe we can do it. It may take a little more time. But that will be our first test. And I pledge to work with the managers and with Senator Daschle to make that happen.

We have a lot of other important issues that we're going to have to deal with this year. Senator Daschle noted yesterday we have 13 appropriation's bill and a supplemental appropriation's bill to do to keep the government operating. We have 59 days, estimated, I guess, to get it done.

LOTT: It's going to take a pretty good lift. I hope we don't have 100 amendments on every appropriations bill like we did last year, and I hope we can find a way to show fiscal restraint and get these bills done.

Obviously, there's going to be health-related issues. How do we deal with patients' bill of rights? How can we deal with this important question of prescription drugs to make sure that the elderly poor get the help they need? Can we come together on Medicare reform? Can we take the lead from Senator Moynihan, former senator from New York, on Social Security?

Will we be able to really address energy needs in this country? Will we be taking partisan positions...

HARRIS: We're going to take this moment to take a break, but we will come back and have more coverage of this transition, as we've seen here, from the Republicans controlling the Senate to the Democrats controlling the Senate. We've got the correspondents standing by, and we'll be talking to them in a moment.

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