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Will Democratic Control of the Senate Bring Bipartisanship?

Aired June 5, 2001 - 19:30   ET



SEN. THOMAS DASCHLE (D-SD), MINORITY LEADER: We will get off on what I hope will be the right foot, a positive and constructive foot.


BILL PRESS, CO-HOST: Tonight, Senate Democrats take control. Will it be a new era of bipartisanship or will it be business as usual?


SEN. TRENT LOTT (R-MS), MINORITY LEADER: While we may not be in the majority, we are going to make sure that the American people's agenda is considered as we see it.


ANNOUNCER: Live from Washington, CROSSFIRE. On the left, Bill Press. On the right, Tucker Carlson. In the CROSSFIRE: Republican Senator Kit Bond from Missouri and Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana.

PRESS: Good evening, welcome to CROSSFIRE.

It's a new day in the U.S. Senate. Republicans are out, Democrats are in. Trent Lott is out, Tom Daschle is in as majority leader. Jesse Helms is out, Joe Biden is in as chair of Foreign Relations, and sometime tomorrow morning, the desk of new independent senator Jim Jeffords will be unbolted and moved out of Republican territory and over to the Democratic side of the aisle.

Of course, there are also going to be a lot of changes in the legislative agenda. To make sure his agenda stays on track, President Bush met on education today at the White House with key senators, including the rebellious Jeffords. And to make sure he doesn't lose still one more Republican, Bush is having dinner at the White House tonight with maverick John McCain.

Hasn't this big a shakeup in the Senate since who knows when. So, what will a new day bring? Bipartisan cooperation or all-out warfare? We ask two senators tonight -- Tucker. TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST: Senator Landrieu, thanks for joining us. All-our war. I want you to take a look at a statement given today by your colleague, Senator Lott, former Senate majority leader, newly energized. Here is his description of what is taking place.


LOTT: I think that it was very unfortunate that a number of Democrats came right out last week, and basically said, well, this is the end of national missile defense, this is the end of, you know, an opportunity to have additional oil supply in the ANWR of Alaska, but worst of all, that this is the end to conservative judges, and we are going to have a litmus test. I thought all of that was very inflammatory and unfortunate on behalf of the Democrats.


CARLSON: So, senator, basically what the Democrats have said, is we are in charge now through this fluke, and now it's our way or the highway. Is this is a good way to assume power?

SEN. MARY LANDRIEU (D), LOUISIANA: Well, Tucker, that's not what the Democrats have said, and with all due respect to Senator Lott, he was the one that said we are going to go to war. Well, we don't want to go to war, we want to get down to business, and do the business that the American people sent us here to do, and our intention is to work with Republicans in a bipartisan way, across the aisle to fashion an education reform policy for this nation, a health care policy for this nation.

We want most importantly keep this budget in balance, pay down our debts, and so that we can be fiscally disciplined and responsible, and so, I'm really -- you know, I'm sorry to hear that kind of rhetoric, but I think you will find in Tom Daschle a man who not only speaks bipartisanship, but acts it, and that's what the Senate needs, that's the kind of leadership that we need, and I think that's what Tom Daschle is going to give.

CARLSON: But senator, you refer to the business the American people sent you to Washington to do, but the American people, of course, didn't send the Democrats to control the Senate. Of course, the elected a Republican Senate, or a Republican Congress in the last election, so how is there a mandate?

For instance, when Tom Daschle says, drilling in ANWR is dead, the president's -- part of his energy plan is dead, there is no mandate for him to say that. The American people didn't elect Democratic committee chairmen in the Senate to kill that, they elected Republicans.

LANDRIEU: Well, Tucker, what I said was that people sent us, not just Democrats, they sent us, Democrats and Republicans, to work together on the issues that they care about. And one of the great things that I think Senator Jeffords sent a signal is that our two parties -- you know, we are not -- every nation in the world doesn't have just two parties. The many nations have multiparties. We have two major parties, and those parties need to be broad, they need to be inclusive. And what his message was, was that the Republican Party has failed to be as inclusive as it should, and I think that's a message worth heeding. Let's govern from the center, that's where we can, and I think that is what Tom Daschle is going to do.

PRESS: Senator Bond, welcome back to CROSSFIRE. Good to have you back.

SEN. KIT BOND (R), MISSOURI: Oh, it's a pleasure, Bill, thank you.

PRESS: Let me pick up where Senator Landrieu left off. We have a new majority leader, who takes official possession of the title tomorrow morning, and there has been some vilification, particularly in some of the editorials, that this guy, Tom Daschle, is going to be an obstructionist. He is a man that most Americans don't know. I want to ask you tonight, first of all, what do you think of Tom Daschle and what kind of a majority leader do you think he's going to be?

BOND: Well, first, Bill, I was tempted to bring along some lemons to take the smile off your face when you're talking about all the Republicans being -- I thought that was a little obscene. I know how much it pleases you, but...

PRESS: I'll try...

BOND: As Mary has said, we've got the same 100 people there, and we've got the same agenda. Now, Mary and her colleague John Breaux of Louisiana are two of the people that I really consider to be in the centrist group that can move things in the United States Senate. I like to think that there is a large number of us who are willing to move forward on things, and Mary and John Breaux and 12 -- or 10 other Democrats voted for President Bush's tax relief plan. It was scaled back from his initial -- or his secondary proposal, but it's still good for America.

Now, Senator Daschle is very able and he's a very intelligent man, but I think he represents a farther left segment of thought and people in the party than many of his moderates, and if -- I didn't hear him say that all of President Bush's agenda was dead. If he did, I think that's unfortunate, because we still have the same 100 votes, and I hope we can get a solid majority to fix the energy problem, to fix Social Security, to deal with some of the significant problems we have.

PRESS: One of the keys to how things are going to work in the Senate, of course, is makeup of the committees, and I know Senator Daschle is meeting with Republican committee this afternoon -- leadership committee -- to discuss that. Earlier, here is what Senator Daschle laid out as what his goal was. I would like to you to listen and comment, please. Senator Daschle.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DASCHLE: My organizing resolution that I submitted to our Republican colleagues really has just two very simple pieces. Number one, the majority party would have a one-vote margin in the committees, and number two, we would work with our Republican colleagues to determine whether that is an additional Democrat, or a reduction of one Republican.


PRESS: Senator, that sounds eminently reasonable to me. How could you possibly disagree with it?

BOND: Well, that one point is something I think everybody is going to agree on. I believe by now they probably agreed that there will be one Democrat added to each committee, and there will be other elements. There will be other elements in the reorganization that I think will take several days.

PRESS: And doesn't it show that Tom Daschle is reaching out and does want to work together?

BOND: I mean, that's a reasonable start, and I have no problem with what he said. I think that's good.

Now, let's see if he really does try to carry through on the threat to kill Bush energy program, to kill -- I don't think he's going to try to kill the Bush education plan, because there a lot of Republicans and Democrats who believe we can do better for education.

LANDRIEU: Bill, can I jump in here just for a second, if I could?


LANDRIEU: Because you know, education is a good example of how we have worked together across party lines, and while Kit, with all due respect, calls it the Bush plan, and there are elements, of course, that the president campaigned on, this plan was initially put forward from the new Democratic network, as well as with Senator Kennedy's input, and on the Republican side with Senator Gregg and now with Senator Jeffords, and it's good example of how we can work together to try to bring a new system of reform and accountability to public schools around our nation.

And it's picked up some aspect of what the Democrats would like, some as aspects of what the Republicans would like, but stays true to serving children, whether they are in urban district or rural districts, more accountability, performance-based, less management from Washington, more consolidation and some more choice.

Now, whether we are able to go all the way to vouchers, that's left to be seen, so we will have disagreements and principle disagreements, but it's been a good example, and I have been proud to be part of that group that work. So, let's lay that down, let's get started, because Tom Daschle, Kit -- and you have worked with him, you know -- he really is a man that can -- he has brought a lot of unity and consensus within our party, recognizing there are some of us that are more moderate than others.

CARLSON: Well...

LANDRIEU: But I think Trent Lott has to do that a little bit better than he has done it, and I think that's one of problems, that Jeffords and the moderates don't feel like they have room in the Republican Party, like we do. As a moderate, I feel like I have got plenty of room in the Democratic Party.

CARLSON: Senator Landrieu, let's talk about a place were there isn't a lot of consensus at the moment, and that's over nominations. Republicans are concerned that Democrats will bottle up nominations in committee, not let them out onto the floor for a full vote of the Senate. Why should a nomination stay in a committee? What are Democrats afraid of? If the nominee is so extreme, why shouldn't that nominee go down to the full Senate, everyone will get a look at him?

LANDRIEU: Tucker, if I were you, if I were you, I would not even go there.

CARLSON: Well, I have gone there, so please answer.

LANDRIEU: Because the record -- well, let me answer -- because the record speaks for itself. The Democrats have not been the party to bottle up nominations, and I have got tons of numbers that I can share with you about when the Republicans have been in control, they stopped and slowed down nominations because the nominations didn't meet up with their, you know, with their parameters.

CARLSON: Well, that may be right...

LANDRIEU: All I can tell you is that the Democrats will work with the president to move nominations through and our views must be considered.

CARLSON: Well, wait a second, senator...

LANDRIEU: The constitution says, "advise and consent."

CARLSON: But why don't Democrats agree right now then, why don't Democrats agree formally that all nominations can go right to the floor? What in the world are you afraid of? That's the democratic way, is it not?

LANDRIEU: Tucker, it is not. It is the way for 200 years our committee, our Senate has operated with these coming through the committee. It is just preposterous for the Republicans to suggest that we should have a different system that we have had for over 200 years. This is a system, it has worked pretty well. The committee will operate and will work, and I think we'll get good judges on the bench which is what the American people want.

PRESS: Senator Bond.

BOND: Mary, I don't think anybody as any problems with the nominations going to committee so they can be fully aired and you learn some things in that airing process. But the problem is that there are Democrats on the Judiciary Committee who said they are going to have litmus tests. Now the Democrats used to rise up in arms about litmus tests and I sat there and listened to what some of your Democratic colleagues on Judiciary Committee said about John Ashcroft, and frankly, it was absolutely false personal attacks.

And if they are threatening to use that kind of attack against judicial nominees it is not fair. We just think that President Clinton had almost as many nominations confirmed as Ronald Reagan did, over 350. I hope that the Bush nominations have the same opportunity to be voted on floor as Clinton's did.

LANDRIEU: Believe me, they will, because under the Republican control of Congress, as you know, and we can show you the figures, there were hundreds of nominations held up. Democrats have processed nominations much more quickly and we will continue to and work in a bipartisan way to do that.

You have my commitment, and many, many, many Democrats and Tom Daschle himself. But please let the public know that the president in the Constitution can present their nominees but the Senate under the Constitution must give advice. Some of that advice is going to be yes, he's a good guy or she's a good guy. And some of that advice is going to be no, we'd prefer someone else. So, it's got to be worked out and I think we can.

BOND: I'm from Missouri, so show me.


BOND: There's some statements that make me wonder about that.

CARLSON: Well, as you can tell, it's a brand new day in Washington and we will get right of heart of what they mean when we return on CROSSFIRE. We will be right back.


CARLSON: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. Political power doesn't usually change hands between elections. But that's exactly what happened tonight, when the United States Senate came under Democratic control for the first time in more than six years.

Goodbye, Trent Lott. Hello, Tom Daschle. And good luck George W. Bush, who must now try to move his agenda and his nominees, through a chamber controlled by his political enemies. How will Bush do? We'll find out. Joining us tonight from Capitol Hill, Senator Mary Landrieu, Democrat of Louisiana, and Republican Senator Kit Bond of Missouri -- Bill.

PRESS: Senator, I was interested earlier in the show to hear Trent Lott accuse Democrats of inflammatory language. I mean, it was Trent Lott who came out with the inflammatory language in this infamous -- now infamous -- memo that he sent out ever the weekend to Republican operatives. One of the things he said in that memo and I want to ask you about first is that he talked about Jim Jeffords, and said this was a coup of one that, quote, "subverted the will of the American voters who elected a Republican majority."

Now, Senator, the last time I checked, the Senate was 50/50.

BOND: Plus one.

PRESS: Dick Cheney not member of the Senate.

BOND: Yes, he is, yes he is, yes he is.

PRESS: You did not have a majority in the Senate, did you? I mean, but the American people did not elect 51 senators, did they?

BOND: They elected 50 Republicans and a vice president.

LANDRIEU: And 50 Democrats.


PRESS: I'm just saying the math doesn't add up.

LANDRIEU: They're 50/50, but the problem with that memo, and I have a lot of respect for Trent Lott. He is a personal friend of mine. I have worked very closely with him. It was very unfortunate though that in that same memo I think he basically declared war. And that is not a good way to start out. We don't want to declare war, we want to declare getting down to business. So, let's just move on, say it was a bad memo, it shouldn't have been written.


PRESS: Senator Landrieu, it's good to hear you say that, but I want Senator Bond to hear a Republican senator say the same thing. Here was Senator Olympia Snowe this afternoon on the Trent Lott memo, please.


SEN. OLYMPIA SNOWE (R), MAINE: It wouldn't the right town, it wouldn't be the appropriate demeanor, and certainly shouldn't be the way in which we should proceed to grapple with this change and shift in power.


PRESS: I just want to ask, are you going to join your two colleagues tonight in condemning Trent Lott for using that "waging war" analogy?

BOND: I agree 100 percent with Olympia. I think Trent got a little carried away with Hyperbole, and he's trying to fire up the base certainly saying -- what he said was, said the 2002 election would be war. I think that's overplaying it a bit, but obviously he wants to rally the base. I agree with Olympia.

LANDRIEU: See, that's problem though, Kit, and that is the real problem. We want to be respectful of our base and never forget, but we want to try to govern from the center. It's where most of the American people are and frankly it's the right kind of politics.

A good example is this education bill. I also hope then we can move to health care and come up with some real solutions to health care but let's just tone town the rhetoric and get to work. And there are going to be disagreements. But I think you are going to will find in Tom Daschle an extraordinary, extraordinary leader. You know, Democrats know that and Republicans know how good he is and I think we'll see that.

BOND: Wait a minute, Mary. If you want to look at inflammatory rhetoric, we can cite you just chapter and versus from some of your colleagues. Now, I happen to believe that Mary Landrieu and Olympia Snowe and many others are ones that don't engage in that rhetoric.

And I have worked with Mary on small business issues, education issues and there are bomb throwers on both sides. But we need get to back the work of carrying out the agenda the American people elected to us to do. And that's what we want.

CARLSON: Now Senator Landrieu, as you know, as we learned from Jim Jeffords, things can just change overnight in a body as closely divided as the Senate. Let's talk about your colleague from New Jersey, Senator Torricelli. Talk is he may be indicted. He's been accused of accepting thousands of dollars in cash and Rolex watches and custom-made clothing and antiques from this campaign contributor, David Chang, who has already pled to serious crimes.

Is Senator Torricelli going to be indicted?

LANDRIEU: First of all, a person is innocent until proven guilty. All these are accusations. He has great lawyers. I think he is making his case. It's a very unfortunate situation, but I have every confidence in Senator Torricelli, and the extraordinary work he has done as a senator, representing the people of his state.

CARLSON: Well, with all due respect...

LANDRIEU: I'm not in the courtroom, I'm not in the briefing, I'm not taking depositions.

CARLSON: "He has great lawyers." I'm not sure that's a vote of confidence. But have you asked him, are these allegations true?


LANDRIEU: He has said that these allegations are not true. And the person is innocent until proven guilty. Look, I myself was accused of all sorts of crazy notions and ideas, none of which ever panned out. And many people have been, so let's...

CARLSON: But the difference is... LANDRIEU: ...let's not jump to conclusions.

CARLSON: You answered the charges specifically, whereas he has...

LANDRIEU: He has answered the charges. He said they are not true. So, that will play out.

CARLSON: He has absolutely not!

LANDRIEU: Let me say that the...

CARLSON: No Democrat has asked him to explain...

LANDRIEU: The Senate is close, and lots of things could happen, but that's why the most important thing for us is just to tone the rhetoric down and get to business. There's lots of business we have to notice like paying down our debt, like strengthening our schools, like strengthening Social Security, and we just need to get on that path, and stop picking at individual senators.

PRESS: Just about out of time. But I want to ask you about some -- Tucker is absolutely right, things can change on a dime, and "Newsweek" this week indicates that their, with loss of power among Republicans in the Senate...

BOND: We sympathize with your fellow Californians who have lost power. We Republicans in the Senate have.

PRESS: Well, "Newsweek" indicates that some Republican senators...

BOND: He missed the joke.

PRESS: I got the joke -- that now is the time maybe to move on and get out of town if they are not in power. Senator Domenici from New Mexico and Senator Helms from North Carolina also indicated in "Newsweek" that Senator Thompson would leave and become the new head of the Motion Picture Association.

I just want to ask you, any talk in the Republican cloakroom about getting out of town?

BOND: Frankly, we don't know who will make any decisions. I wish you wouldn't to be so enthusiastic about suggesting their retirements. But we will have a solid slate.

And frankly, when you look at the numbers, I think 2002 looks very good for us because we have an opportunity to pick up seats and I want to help my colleagues and some challengers and perhaps we can win back the majority. I believe we can and we are going to pursue an agenda that I think the American people would like.

PRESS: We will see what the next change is. In the meantime, we are out of time. Senator Kit Bond, thanks so much for joining us. Senator Landrieu, thank you for being there on Capitol Hill with us tonight.

BOND: Thank you.

PRESS: We will have you both on CROSSFIRE soon. When we come back, Tucker Carlson and I -- we will give our bipartisan solution to how this new Senate ought to work!


PRESS: Tucker, here is what I think is funny. Now that he knows he's in trouble, Bush has launched a new charm offensive. He's got McCain for dinner tonight, meeting with Lincoln Chafee tomorrow. He's got Daschle for dinner Thursday night. He's invited everybody to dinner this week but me.

And you know what? It's not going to work, because when it comes down to governing, the guy still only listens to the far right.

CARLSON: He wouldn't even need to do this, because, as we were reminded tonight, in our little colloquy about Senator Torricelli, things could change without warning and I must say, the quote of the year goes to Senator Landrieu. Is he guilty? I'm quoting now -- "he has good lawyers." That is the greatest vote of no confidence.

PRESS: If you are counting on Torricelli going to jail, my friend, you have a long wait.

Listen, the thing is, don't ignore it -- the Democrats are in control. There's...


PRESS: There's going to be prescription drugs for seniors. There's going to be a patients bill of rights. They are going to raise the minimum wage. No drilling in Alaska!

CARLSON: They are going to have to run things with the big dig in Boston, the world's most expensive construction project, run by Democrats. A metaphor for the Senate.

PRESS: Just watch. From the left, I'm Bill Press. Good night from CROSSFIRE.

CARLSON: And on the right, I'm Tucker Carlson, join us again tomorrow night for another edition of CROSSFIRE.



4:30pm ET, 4/16

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