Trent Lott


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(b. Grenada County, Mississippi, 9 Oct. 1941)

US; member of the US House of Representatives 1972–88, US Senator 1988–2007 Educated at the University of Mississippi and at Mississippi Law School, Lott practised law and worked for Democratic Congressman William Colmer between 1968 and 1972. In 1972 he was elected to Colmer's seat in the House of Representatives as a Republican and was elected Republican whip in 1980. Lott became a key figure in Republican politics in the 1980s, and organized the Convention platform committees at the Republican conventions of 1984 and 1988, although in 1988 he supported Jack Kemp's abortive presidential bid rather than the candidacy of George Bush.

Lott successfully ran for the Senate in 1988. Once in the Senate he became a natural candidate for Republican leadership positions. Following the 1992 elections, he was elected Republican conference secretary. In 1994, Lott became Senate Republican whip. When in June 1996 Robert Dole resigned from the Senate majority leadership to concentrate on his presidential campaign, Lott replaced him. Lott's election to the post of Senate majority leader also reduced the ideological distance between the Republican leadership in the Senate and the House, under Gingrich, and put both leadership positions firmly in the hands of conservatives. As majority leader, he was involved in the impeachment of Bill Clinton in 1998, regarding the impeachment as necessary but wishing to restrict the scope of the trial to restrict the disruption of normal Senate business. After the 2000 election the House was equally divided between the parties and Lott had to work with Tom Daschle, the Democrat leader, to manage some business. In June 2001 the Republican senator for Vermont, Jim Jeffords, left the party, giving the Democrats a majority, and Lott then became minority leader. He resigned from this position in 2002 after having made unguarded remarks, considered racist by many, at the 100th birthday party of Senator Strom Thurmond. In 2007, less than a year after being re-elected, and just before ethical rules came into force requiring former members of Congress to wait two years after leaving office to become lobbyists, Lott resigned from the Senate and became a lobbyist.

A tax-cutting and cultural conservative by instinct, Lott nevertheless tempered his partisanship and showed an ability to negotiate both within his own party and with Democrats. However, he became tainted by his remarks in 2002, and he was virtually disowned by his party.

Subjects: Politics.

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