This week I sought and won the position of Republican Whip in the United States Senate. I’ve told Mississippians for several months that I would seek a Senate leadership position if the opportunity arose and if it would be for the betterment of Mississippi and the benefit of the Senate and the American people we serve.
My assumption of this leadership post meets both criteria, and I am delighted to be back in a position from which I can project my experience in ways that help our state and country.
The Majority and Minority Whips are charged with evaluating where their parties’ Senators stand on certain bills, and then helping their respective leaders – in my case, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky as Minority Leader – get their parties’ Senators to vote together toward a common goal or strategy. Hence, the term “whip.” It’s more about getting votes than merely counting them.
Often the job involves getting those votes across party lines, as I consistently did as the House Minority Whip during the Reagan years. In those years I secured bipartisan majorities for President Reagan’s economic recovery and peace through strength initiatives.
Though I most recently served as Senate Majority Leader, I confess it is in the Whip role where I feel most comfortable and ready to produce votes for the American people and the people of Mississippi. In fact, I didn’t decide to run for Whip until right after the election, when Republicans lost our Senate majority. After that I felt it was even more important for a small, conservative state like Mississippi to have more influence in Washington.
I made no secret of the fact that the primary reason I ran for another term in the Senate was to help our state recover from Hurricane Katrina. Now with this leadership position I can better help Mississippians maximize federal support at this critical time in Mississippi’s history.
This was not an easy endeavor for me. In fact, it’s been perhaps one of the toughest I’ve faced. As Lord Wellington said after he defeated Napoleon at the epic battle of Waterloo, it was “the nearest run thing you ever saw.” This race for whip was a very near run, too. I edged out Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee by a single vote, 25 to 24 in the secret ballot which determines all Senate leadership races.
Lamar is my friend, and we go back a long way. In fact, he and I were roommates when we first came to Washington in 1968 as young Congressional staffers. He’s a very accomplished public servant and American patriot whom I greatly admire. But the Senate has been in the doldrums lately, just drifting aimlessly in circles, reacting to ever changing winds and going nowhere. Right now I believe the Senate needs its most seasoned and aggressive leadership at the helm because the Senate must move forward.
Now before the Senate are some of the toughest challenges and questions facing our nation in generations – Iraq, energy, immigration, terrorist threats, tax policies and jobs. I want to help Leader McConnell and our leadership counterparts on the Democratic side address these concerns in a bipartisan way that satisfies the American people, giving them answers to their questions and confidence in America’s future.
As the Republican Whip in the Senate, it is not my job to obstruct legislation simply to stall the opposing party. Though our leadership will certainly oppose or try to halt what we feel are bad proposals, my first inclination always will be to find ways to assist our leaders in moving the Senate forward toward a tangible, positive outcome.
Will it better Mississippi? Will it benefit our nation? As Republican Whip I’ll be asking those two all-important questions a lot in the coming two years. I ask for your prayers, your support and even your constructive criticism as your Senate tries to make America stronger and Americans prouder. It won’t just be about counting votes, it will be about getting votes that produce results for the American people.
Senator Lott welcomes any questions or comments about this column.
Write to: U.S. Senator Trent Lott, 487 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510 (Attn: Press Office) or Email