Twenty-one years ago Thursday, as the House approved articles of impeachment against President Bill Clinton, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott was sitting in his study in Pascagoula, Miss., “looking out on a beautiful live oak tree.” With a sigh, the Republican leader picked up the phone to call Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, his Democratic counterpart.
“Whether we like it or not, this is sitting in our lap,” he told Daschle, “and we’ve got to figure out how to deal with it.”
Lott was a skilled vote-counter.
“I knew the votes were not there and were never gonna be there to remove Bill Clinton,” he says. “So what I had to figure out, working with Tom, was: How do we fulfill our constitutional responsibility in a respectable way?”
Meanwhile, the Senate staff — parliamentarians, floor aides, even furniture-makers — were frantically preparing.
In contrast to the current Senate majority leader, both Lott and Daschle sought to preserve the notion of neutrality at the trial and tried to separate themselves from the White House.