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Last week, former Senate Majority Leaders Tom Daschle and Trent Lott spoke at BPC as part of the “On Leadership” Speaker Series. The event, sponsored by the Henry M. Jackson Foundation, offered Senators Daschle and Lott a platform to reflect on leading the Senate and their personal approaches to the role of majority leader.
Opening remarks from BPC President Jason Grumet and John Hemplemann, president of the Henry M. Jackson Foundation, honored the life of the late Senator Henry M. Jackson and celebrated the Foundation’s Centennial Anniversary. Daschle and Lott recognized Jackson’s legacy as a legislator who demonstrated honesty, scholarship and openness. Daschle, a BPC co-founder, spoke fondly of Jackson’s inspirational leadership, recalling his time working with the Washington senator.
BPC Democracy Project Director John Fortier joined the senators to discuss their personal experiences as majority leaders during some of the most consequential moments of recent history, including the impeachment trial of President Clinton, September 11, and the anthrax attacks. The senators agreed that there were great moments of bipartisan cooperation during these times of crisis, perhaps because of the obvious need to put the priorities of a wounded nation above party or self. Lott, a BPC Senior Fellow, noted that, post-9/11, Americans supported Congress more than at any other time in modern history. Both men said open lines of communication and an overwhelming sense of mutual respect enabled them to lead the Senate chamber. They shared the hope that today’s leaders could learn from times of crisis, finding more time to meet together to build a greater sense of unity and friendship in Congress.
Following the discussion, Henry M. Jackson Foundation Executive Director Lara Inglitzin asked Daschle and Lott if Washington’s policymakers could still achieve compromise—with their positions evolving in the process—without being accused of flip-flopping:
High and rising health care costs consume a large and rapidly growing portion of the federal budget, crowding out investments in other crucial priorities such as education, defense and infrastructure and putting pressure on other priorities of households, businesses and governments.