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Trent Lott, Unplugged: “Are We Mice Or Men?”

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UPDATE: Here is the audio file of the Trent Lott comments listed below.


Trent Lott’s floor remarks in the Senate this morning were not certainly designed to asssure Republicans that their concerns on border security and illegal immigrants from countries with jihadist networks were being addressed in a serious fashion.  There is also an unfortunate, and probably unintentional tone of condescension which just doesn’t play with the voters that GOP senators seeking re-election need to help them in that effort.  The backdrop to the current debate is not only the immigration bill, but also six years of Democratic obstruction and the loss of a 55-45 seat majority, a loss that is at least in part –I believe in large part– owed to the non-confrontational approach of Senate Republicans to that obstruction, and to the pervasive air of indifference to key conservative goals from judicial nominations, to John Bolton, earmarks and absurd spending, and of course the war.  What Senator Lott is voicing in a strong echo of those years is a belief in an institution that many conservatives have lost faith in because Democratic ruthlessness in the use of the filibuster.  Now that the GOP has only the filibuster with which to work, the leadership is not replicating the tactics of the Democrats when the Denmocrats werte in opposition, but is in fact seen to be caving on a major issue.  Having been hamstrung for most of the past four years, it is simply galling to hear the Republican Whip promise Harry Reid a vote in the spirit of getting something done. 

Senator Lott: If anybody in America likes where we are with illegal immigration and legal immigration, if they think what we’ve got now is good or tolerable, fair or responsible, then fine.  Let’s try and kill this bill.  Kill it with amendments. Kill it with the debate. Vote it down. I don’t think that is respobnsible. This is one of the biggest issues facing this country and the question is do we have the courage, tenacity and the ability to get anything done anymore.  If we can’t do this, we ought to vote to dissolve the Congress and go home and wait for the next election…

Can we do anything anymore?  I don’t like a lot of these amendments. I don’t like a lot of what is in the bill.  I was in and out of the meetigs, but I was not one of the people that worked in the so-called Grand Bargain.  Some people are acting now like it was a sinister operation.  I don’t believe so.  Everybody knew there was an effort underway.  Republicans were involved. Democrats were involved. The Adminstration was involved.  Conservatives, liberals, agriculture, everybody.  Now we are going to pick it to death.  I just don’t think this is responsible. I am getting calls, but I would say to my constituents, “Do you ahve no faith in me after 35 years?  That I’m just going to buy a pig in a poke here?  Or be for something that’s bad?…”

Last year I voted against what we came up with because I didn’t think it got better.  It got worse.  But we have an obligation to try and we should not get all in a twit because we made one mistake or we don’t get the one we wanted. Look I voted for amendments that passed and amendments that failed.  I voted for bills Bush…get over all of that.  This is a big issue.  This is the United States Senate, the great deliberative body.  Are we going to belie that description, or are we going to step up to this challenge and try and get it done right?  We should vote down cloture now.. Cloture shouldn’t have been filed.  You can’t ram the Senate.  You can’t ram the minority around here.  This won’t work.  All it does is make people get madder and it takes longer…

So we’re going to have a vote on cloture and we’re going to defeat cloture becaue more amendments are legitimately pending.  But I’m serving notice that I’m going to be a part of trying to help to find a way to get to a conclusion, to a vote.  Vote it up.  Vote it down.  But to try and kill it with all these amendments, you know, that are being thrown up here for the purpose of killing it to me is not an appropriate way to proceed….

This is time where we are going to see whether we are a United States Senate anymore.  Are we men or mice?  Are we going to slither away from this issue and hope for some epiphany to happen?  No.  Let’s, let’s let’s legislate.  Let’s vote.  I think the majority leader has a right to expect at some point we end it.  Try and cover as many objections with as many amendments as we can.  But at some point we have got to get this done….

Senator Kennedy, I appreciate the legislative leadership you have been providing.  I know it is not easy, you know, and your own colleagues and those of us over here have been beating you up.  I mean, your a nice poster child.  Thank you very much for what you do.  But I’ll tell you one thing I have learned the hard way.  When it comes to legislating, when you are dealing with Senator Kennedy, you had better bring your lunch, because you are going to get educated, you are going to learn a lot, and you are going to get a result.  Hopefully it is going to be a good one.  Good luck, senator from Massachusetts.  I yield the floor.

 Sen. Kennedy: And the senator too.  I thank my friend from Mississippi, and I commend him for a constructive and a positive attitude.

I continue to urge readers and listeners to contact Republican Leader McConnell, Repoublican Whip Lott and NRSC Chair Ensign via the Hill switchboard at 202-225-3121 to urge the bill be fixed to mandate full and immediate construction of the fence prior to the grant of probationary benefits, a robust expansion of the Border Patrol and other federal agencies being tasked with the adminsitration of the background check and employment verification systems, and a separate treatment of illegal immigrants from countries of special interest in the war which would confer no rights to employment or travel until a positive showing of loyalty is made.

Senator Lott would gather greater support for the idea of trying to fix the legislation if he would, in consultation with the caucus, set some minimum reforms without which cloture would not be agreed to.  But his remarks today suggest just the opposite is unfolding: a charade intended to present the appearance of reform of the compromise leading to a gentle but no less final jam down.

I expect the cloture vote that looms to pass given Senator Lott’s remarks, and when it does, the Senate GOP is going to see blowback that it will not recover from in time for ’08.  Political insanity of the first order, orchestrated by leadership that seems not to have grasped that it is just as easy to go from 49 to 39 as it was from 55 to 49. 

UPDATE:  A typical e-mail:


I’ve sent Senator Lott an e-mail suggesting that he take the rest of
the year off.

His speech embodies all that I DETEST about Republicans in the Senate.
I don’t care what McConnell or Kyl say, they are just as culpable as
Lott in the meltdown of the party.

I am leaving the party, Hugh.

I will follow the “blow-back” on your blog.

Dave W.



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