Everything You Need To Know About Trent Lott’s Resignation And Then Some

As most of you have probably heard, the #2 Republican in the Senate, Trent Lott, has decided to call it a career and retire before the end of 2007.

Since Lott was just reelected in 2006, my first thought after hearing that Lott resigned was that either he was ill or caught up in a major scandal that would be hitting the news shortly.

However, I’m not hearing any bad news about Lott’s health or, at least so far, any big scandals that he’s supposed to be involved in. There is a “gay rumor” that has popped up, but, it looks to have already been thoroughly debunked by the Huffington Post of all places.

So, why is Lott resigning? Well, supposedly he was lukewarm about running for office in 2006 and it’s worth noting that some new ethics rules go into effect next year that would keep retiring members of Congress from lobbying each other for two years. That means, by quitting this month, Lott can start collecting a huge paycheck as a lobbyist next year, instead of having to wait. If he needs money, which is possible because he apparently lost his house in Katrina, he may feel like he needs to make a move now.

Of course, since Lott is leaving, that means his seat will be up for grabs in 2008. The good news is that you’d have to think that the GOP is likely to hold onto a seat in Mississippi. The bad news is that there are already a lot of open seats that the GOP will have to defend in a year when the political environment isn’t particularly favorable and the Party is going through a cash crunch. The rumor is that Congressman Chip Pickering will get the nod to replace Lott and that he’ll use that as a springboard to run for the seat in 2008, but it’s still too early to know for sure.

The other area where this will have an impact is with the GOP leadership in the Senate. To get a better idea of how this may play out, I talked to a highly placed Senate aide who agreed to speak to me on the condition that I report his comments anonymously. Here’s an edited transcript of our conversation on how the leadership races may play out.

Hawkins: Heard anything about the leadership races?

Anonymous: I think it shakes out like this: Jon Kyl to Whip. Kay Bailey Hutchinson to Conference Chair. John Cornyn to Policy Chair and then Richard Burr to Vice Chair, but it is very fluid.

Regarding my guess of Burr going to Vice Chair, it needs to be noted that he is running against Kay Bailey Hutchinson for Conference Chair. He could possibly win that seat, but it would be an upset. I am guessing that he may drop his bid for that seat if he sees that Kay Bailey Hutchinson has enough support. Then he might go to Vice Chair.

If he doesn’t declare for vice chair then there is a movement afoot to draft Jeff Sessions.

Hawkins: Sessions would be awesome.

Anonymous: One caveat to all of this: it is hard to convince conservatives like Sessions, Demint, Coburn, etc, to run for leadership, because leadership traditionally constrains folks like that rather than empowering them.

Hawkins: Could Sessions win?

Anonymous: Yes, Sessions could win for vice chair.

Hawkins: No Lamar Alexander running for anything?

Anonymous: No, he has no base of support and Kyl has whip locked up.

Hawkins: I am a little surprised to hear that since Alexander came within a whisker of beating Lott for whip.

Anonymous: Yeah, but his base of support was more anti-Lott than it was pro-Lamar. I just think his supporters were cobbled together from friends and people who couldn’t stand the thought of elevating Lott.

Hawkins: I am happy Lott’s leaving as long as we hold his seat.

Anonymous: Yeah, I hope this ends up being an upgrade all around.

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