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Sen. Trent Lott Talks to Reporters in Washington

Aired November 6, 2002 - 10:31   ET


JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Jeff, I'm going to interrupt, because Trent Lott, who is -- will be the new Senate majority leader, is talking to reporters in Washington.
TRENT LOTT (R-MS), SENATE MINORITY LEADER: ... politics that we saw so much of this year here in the Senate, and they want us to take up those issues that are important to the future of our country and our children.

I do think issues made a different in this election. There have been those who have said, "Well, this is an election about nothing." When you go back and look at what has happened over the past year and half, you cannot ignore the fact that America did change on 9/11 over a year ago.

LOTT: And I think that did have an effect on this election. People do want security here at home. I think they didn't understand why we couldn't come to an agreement on creating a new Homeland Security Department.

I think they do have confidence in this president's leadership and fighting the war on terror and taking on the Al Qaeda. And they do want Congress to support and work with our president as the commander-in-chief. I think they also want us to pay attention to the economy.

LOTT: The people I talked to don't understand why we can't get an energy bill through that would give us energy security along with national security and homeland security and economic security.

So I think issues were an important part of what affected the people's votes yesterday. They are giving us an opportunity to show that we can produce the results for the people on issues we didn't get done next year -- last year, and on issues that we need to do next year.

And so, I'm excited to be able to be on offense, working with this president, thinking about what we can do when we come back into session next year.

But of course, also even next week we'll be back in session. And I've got to communicate with Senator Daschle and Speaker Hastert and the administration about next week and how long we will be in session and what issues we might be able to deal with in what I hope would be and expect would be a relatively short lame duck session. I think you have to give an awful lot of credit to the president of the United States. Again, he has shown a willingness to make a commitment, to provide leadership, to be involved. He didn't stay in the White House and try to say this is a, you know, Rose Garden campaign. He went out there with American people. He campaigned hard. He went to a lot of states, a lot of congressional districts.

He spoke for a lot of different candidates. But he didn't do it in a negative way. He didn't criticize Democrats by name. In fact, he said Democrats go vote, Independents, we need you. We need all to get out there and work together.

LOTT: He ran a very positive campaign. But he put his prestige on the line and I believe it made a huge difference in the election.

And also, I think maybe some people are missing the fact we had good candidates. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia was a great candidate. Susan Collins in Maine, who got pounded relentlessly with negative ads and by outside expenditures, won by a landslide.

So from Maine and New Hampshire to Oregon, from Minnesota to Georgia and Texas, Florida, this was a credit to some really good men and women that got out there and did a great job under very difficult circumstances. Norm Coleman, obviously, what more could you have to go through, a long campaign and have to deal with the tragic death of your opponents and then have a new opponent introduced -- you know, a well known name -- and still be able to talk about the things he wanted to do, the things he had done and what he wanted to do in the future and to win that election in Minnesota. He deserves a lot of credit and I'm very pleased and happy for him.

So we're ready to go to work. As I have said to others, let's roll. Let's see what we can do next week in the lame duck session. And then I need to do a lot of communication and thinking about more of the order rather than just the list of things we might need to do next year.

LOTT: So much of what we need to do is obvious; just take the list of what we didn't get done this year, and we need to work on those. We need to have a budget, to begin with. We need pension reform, welfare reform. We need to do more in education. Let's quit talking about doing something for low-income elderly that need prescription drugs. Let's look at what we can do to target some tax cuts that would help the economy. Let's have fiscal restraint. Let's begin to get control on the spending.

Obviously, the last year we had a lot of extra expenditures for homeland security and the war on terror. But we need to think carefully about what our priorities are for the future. And I'm looking forward to being able to do that.

I'll be glad to take your questions.

QUESTION: Senator, you did not mention before judicial nominees. Is that perhaps the place where the president may get his most satisfaction out of this new majority in the Senate?

LOTT: I do think that while you might argue or think that nominations for the federal judiciary may not move elections or affect people's votes that much, I think it was a part of a pattern that did have an effect. I think there was a feeling that a lot of the president's nominations for various positions were not considered fairly.

We have 81, I think it is, nominations on the Senate calendar right now -- men, women, for -- you know, obviously, for the federal judiciary, but also assistant secretary of state, deputy secretary of energy, commission. And it's not, you know, all one party or one individual's fault. But the fact of the matter is, their lives are on hold while we decide whether or not we're going to be able to find a way to confirm them.

I do think, certainly, in my area, in places like South Carolina and Georgia and Mississippi and Texas, we felt like men and women and minorities were treated very, very poorly in their confirmation process.

LOTT: And I think that may have had an effect, maybe in some states more than others or some areas more than others. But getting good men, women and minorities in the federal judiciary, on the bench...

WOODRUFF: We have been listening to Trent Lott, who will be the Senate majority leader.


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