Trent Lott

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Trent Lott served as the Jr. Senator for Mississippi

Chester Trent Lott was the junior U.S. Senator from Mississippi from 1988 until 2007(map). He was the Senate minority whip for the 110th Congress.

Record and controversies

General information about important bills and votes for can be found in Congresspedia's articles on legislation. You can add information you find on how Trent Lott voted by clicking the "[edit]" link to the right and typing it in. Remember to cite your sources!

Iraq War

Lott voted for the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq in Oct. 2002.

For more information see the chart of U.S. Senate votes on the Iraq War.

Environmental record

For more information on environmental legislation, see the Energy and Environment Policy Portal

Strom Thurmond and resignation

Tremendous political controversy ensued following remarks Lott made on December 5, 2002 at Strom Thurmond's 100th birthday party. Thurmond ran for President of the United States in 1948 on the Dixiecrat (or States' Rights) ticket, whose primary campaign issue was the perpetuation of racial segregation in the United States. Lott said:

"I want to say this about my state: When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We're proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years, either."

Since Thurmond had explicitly supported racial segregation in the presidential campaign to which Lott referred, this statement was widely interpreted to mean that Lott also supported racial segregation, or at best, that Lott did not feel Thurmond's past support for white supremacy was sufficient reason not to vote for him.

At first, the comment, broadcast on C-SPAN, was largely ignored by the mainstream media but was widely discussed on political blogs such as Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo, which also uncovered Lott's history of actively supporting segregation during college and making similar statements at various points throughout his career. Five days later the story was picked up by major news outlets, and repeated and discussed extensively.

Lott's attempts to explain the remark grew from a mild dismissal as an off-the-cuff remark supporting Thurmond's national defense platform to an explicit repudiation of his racist past and assertions of support for w:affirmative action in a BET interview.

Once reported in newspapers and television, calls for his resignation as majority leader from both ends of the political spectrum grew. Some Democrats and Republicans considered the remark unconscionable, or as Al Gore put it, "fundamentally racist."[1]

Centrist Democrats and Republicans at first defended Lott, insisting the remarks had been blown out of proportion. Some pointed to Sen. Robert Byrd's past as recruiter for the Ku Klux Klan to suggest a double standard, as Byrd was not forced from his leadership position in the Democratic party.[2] Others saw Lott's remarks as simply an attempt to compliment the ancient Thurmond, devoid of any real meaning beyond the context.

After President Bush voiced his own harsh criticism of Lott's remarks ("Any suggestion that the segregated past was acceptable or positive is offensive, and it is wrong. Recent comments by Senator Lott do not reflect the spirit of our country. He has apologized and rightly so. Every day that our nation was segregated was a day our nation was unfaithful to our founding ideals"), Lott's position became untenable. It was obvious he would be unable to remain as Senate Republican Leader, although the official White House line was that Lott did not need to resign.[3]

Lott later agreed with the President's speech. In the aforementioned BET interview, he said, "Segregation is a stain on our nation’s soul... Segregation and racism are immoral."

Under pressure from Senate colleagues, and having lost the support of the White House, Lott resigned as Senate Republican Leader on December 20, 2002. Bill Frist of Tennessee was later elected to the leadership position. Lott was chosen by his colleagues as Chairman of the Senate Rules Committee after the controversy.

In a book written after the incident, Lott described what he called a betrayal by the White House and his colleagues in the Senate:

"I’d been knifed in the back," Mr. Lott wrote in his book, Herding Cats: A Life in Politics. "But in order to be effective again," he wrote, "I had to shake some of the hands that held the daggers."[4]


In 2005, Lott expressed confidence in his ability to work around the efforts of Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) to block Senate bills laden with earmarks and pork projects. He stated, "The way I do it is, I fold them into bills where you can't find it...I've been around here long enough to know how to bury it." [1]



Lott was born October 9, 1941 in Grenada, Mississippi. He attended college at the University of Mississippi where he obtained an undergraduate degree in public administration in 1965 and a law degree in 1967. He served as a Field Representative for Ole Miss and was president of his fraternity, Sigma Nu. After getting his law degree, he moved to Pascagoula (where he still lives today) and began a law practice.

He was administrative assistant to House Rules Committee chairman William Colmer, also of Pascagoula, from 1968 to 1972. When Colmer, one of the leading segregationists in the Democratic Party, retired after 40 years in Congress, he endorsed Lott as his successor in Mississippi's 5th District, covering the southern tip of the state, even though Lott ran as a Republican. Lott won handily. It's very likely that he'd have won without Colmer's endorsement, as this was the year of a titanic Republican landslide which Richard Nixon captured 49 of 50 states and 78 percent of Mississippi's popular vote. He and his current Senate colleague, Thad Cochran (also elected to Congress that year), were only the second and third Republicans elected to Congress from Mississippi since Reconstruction. Lott was reelected seven times without much difficulty, and even ran unopposed in 1978. He served as House Minority Whip (the second-ranking Republican in the House) from 1981 to 1989.

Senate Career

He successfully ran for the U.S. Senate in 1988, filling the seat formerly held by retiring John C. Stennis. He was re-elected in 1994 and 2000 with no substantive Democratic opposition. He gave some thought to retirement for much of 2005, especially after his house was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina (see below)He was among the first people to receive help from FEMA. However, on January 17, 2006 he announced that he would run for a fourth term in the 2006 elections.

He became Senate Majority Whip when the Republicans took control of the Senate in 1995, succeeding as majority leader in 1996 when Bob Dole resigned from the Senate to focus on his presidential bid. As majority leader, Lott was best known for his role in the impeachment of Bill Clinton. It was clear that the Republicans were far short of the two-thirds majority required under the Constitution to convict Clinton and remove him from office. However, Lott proceeded with the Senate trial in early 1999 under pressure from the far right. He later acquiesced in a decision to suspend the proceedings after the Senate voted not to convict President Clinton.

After the 2000 elections produced a 50-50 partisan split, Vice President Al Gore's tiebreaking vote gave the Democrats the majority from January 3-January 20, 2001, when the George W. Bush-Dick Cheney Administration took office and Cheney's tiebreaking vote gave the Republicans the majority once again. Later in 2001, he became Senate Minority Leader once again after Jim Jeffords became an independent and caucused with the Democrats, allowing them to regain the majority. He was to become majority leader again in early 2003 after Republican gains in the November 2002 elections. The Strom Thurmond controversy, however (see below), derailed his chances.

He was a cosponsor of the bill to create a Director of National Intelligence. Despite frequent charges of racism from his critics, Lott has been a strong supporter of high levels of immigration from non-white and third world countries.

Later developments

Since he lost the Majority Leader position, Lott has kept relatively quiet. However, Lott started to show an unusual shift from his traditionally strong conservative views when he said that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld should resign within a year. He has also battled with President Bush over military base closures in his home state.

Lott was long rumored to be making a push to return to GOP leadership. Lott publicly considered running for Republican Whip after the 2006 elections if the GOP front-runner for that post, Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, lost his bid for reelection. Additionally, Lott suggested that he was considering challenging Senator Mitch McConnell to become majority leader [2], once Senator Bill Frist retires from the Senate [3]. Santorum lost his reelection bid and the following week, Lott declared his candidacy for the minority whip position. His competition was Sen. [Lamar Alexander] of Tennessee. Alexander had been campaigning for the position over the previous year and claimed that he was certain he had the votes to be elected. In a November 15 vote, however, Senate Republicans chose Lott by secret ballot to become their whip for the 110th Congress. [4]

Lott has also written a memoir entitled Herding Cats, A Life in Politics. In the book Lott speaks for the first time on the infamous Strom Thurmond birthday party gaffe. He also speaks out on current Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, and about his feelings of betrayal toward the Tennessee Senator, claiming "If Frist had not announced exactly when he did, as the fire was about to burn out, I would still be majority leader of the Senate today." He also described former Majority Leader Tom Daschle (Democrat) of South Dakota as "trustworthy." He also reveals that President Bush, then Secretary of State Colin Powell and other GOP leaders played a major role in ending his career as Senate Republican Leader.

2006 elections

In 2006, the Democrats nominated Erik Fleming to face Lott in his November 2006 bid for reelection. (See U.S. congressional elections in 2006) [5] Lott retained his seat. Following the elections, Lott was elected Senate minority whip for the 110th Congress.


On November 26, 2007, Lott scheduled two press conferences to announce his retirement from the Senate. The resignation was to be effective at the end of the year. A congressional official told The Washington Post Lott's health was not a factor in the decision, and the four-term senator has "other opportunities" to undertake.[5]

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour will name a successor to fill Lott's seat through the 2008 general election. Mississippi Reps. Chip Pickering and Roger Wicker are considered likely replacements.[6]

Money in politics

This section contains links to – and feeds from – money in politics databases. <crpcontribdata>cid=N00003329&cycle=2006</crpcontribdata>

Links to more campaign contribution information for Trent Lott
from the Center for Responsive Politics' site.
Fundraising profile: 2006 election cycle Career totals
Top contributors by organization/corporation: 2006 election cycle Career totals
Top contributors by industry: 2006 election cycle Career totals

Committees and Affiliations


Committee assignments in the 109th Congress (2005-2006)

  • Senate Committee on Finance
    • Subcommittee on Taxation and IRS Oversight
    • Subcommittee on International Trade
    • Subcommittee on Social Security and Family Policy

More Background Data

Wikipedia also has an article on Trent Lott. This article may use content from the Wikipedia article under the terms of the GFDL.


Articles and Resources



  1. John Mercurio, "Lott apologizes for Thurmond comment", CNN, December 10, 2002
  2. Joe Conason, "Note to Hannity, Limbaugh and ditto-heads: Byrd is not Lott. Plus: Where are the Senate Democrats?",, December 13, 2002
  3. Andrew Buncombe, "Republican leader Lott forced out over racist remarks", The Independent, December 21, 2002.
  4. Mark Leibovich, "In Senate Shift, Big Comeback for Trent Lott", The New York Times, November 15, 2006
  5. Jack Elliot, "Sen. Trent Lott to Resign by End of Year", The Washington Post, November 26, 2007.
  6. Martin Kady II and Josh Kraushaar, "Top official: Lott to resign", The Politico, November 26, 2007

Local blogs and discussion sites


Works by Lott

  • Trent Lott, Herding Cats: A Life in Politics (Regan Books: 2005) ISBN 0060599316