CNN BREAKING NEWS
Frist May Support New Vote on Republican Leader
Aired December 16, 2002 - 10:02 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Well, the question about the future of Senator Trent Lott still remains a big question mark. And right now, our Jonathan Karl is standing by on Capitol Hill. He has got some breaking news for us on this story -- Jon, good morning.
JONATHAN KARL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, at least a significant development here, Leon, and that is that I have been told by multiple sources here this morning that Senator Don Nickles, who, of course, was the first to come out and say that the Republicans should have another vote about changing the leadership, removing Trent Lott, replacing him with somebody who is not as damaged.
I have been told by multiple sources that Don Nickles has told his colleagues that he has the support of Senator Bill Frist in his effort to have a new vote on the Republican leadership.
Bill Frist is a significant figure here, enormously influential in the Republic caucus, and also, Senator Frist is one of Trent Lott's closest allies in the Republican caucus here. So, that is a significant development if, in fact, in Senator Frist is now supporting this effort to bring the Republicans back together and have another vote on whether or not they want to go on with Trent Lott as their leader.
Now, I have tried to contact Senator Frist's office to get a response to this. They have -- not been able to get through with them yet, so we don't know what they are saying officially. But this is from people with direct knowledge of these talks.
Now, this adds momentum to this, to this whole idea of having another vote. One of the others who has been out there advocating this is Senator Chuck Hagel, who has said this is imperative, for the future of the Republican Party, to have another vote on this issue.
I spoke with Senator Hagel this morning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK HAGEL (R), NEBRASKA: The Republican Party can't continue, hour after hour, day after day, to decimate itself. We're out on the street now with this, and all kinds of allegations are being made, charges are being made. We need to stop this. We bring to bring it into conference, and we need to either renew, recommit our confidence in Senator Lott's leadership, or elect a new leader.
(END VIDEO CLIP) KARL: Now, Senator Lott was already elected the Republican leader back in November to a two-year term. So the idea of bringing the Republicans together and having another vote on this is really an extraordinary step that shows a tremendous lack of confidence in Senator Lott's leadership, or at least the need to come forward and look and raise the question about whether or not he can go on as the Republican leader. And I can tell you, Leon, that the momentum here on Capitol Hill, with the people I have been talking to, and I have been talking to a lot of them, growing sense that Trent Lott will not survive this, or, at the very least, is in deep trouble as far as continuing on as the Republican leader.
There have also been some discussions here, to give you an idea of where this is going, about what would happen to Senator Lott if he were to step down or be voted out as Republican leader. And some up here on Capitol Hill are talking about a soft landing for Senator Lott. Could they get him a committee chairmanship, could they get him some other position that would give him some authority but remove him from that pivotal position of being the top Republican, the Senate leader here in the Senate -- Leon, that's where it stands now, a rapidly developing story.
HARRIS: It certainly is. Very interesting. Jon Karl on Capitol Hill. Thanks, Jon.
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