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Ex-Senate leaders: Fiscal cliff deal will set tone for Obama's second term
By By Dana Dash
Dec. 14, 2012
Secret conversations on the balcony. A special phone line for instant and direct communication. These are some of the tools former Democratic leader Tom Daschle and former Republican leader Trent Lott used to forge bipartisan consensus and compromise when they ran the Senate a little more than a decade ago.
In a joint interview in the shadow of the Capitol, Daschle and Lott reminisced about bridging partisan differences to get things done -- instructive for today's leaders talking past each other as the fiscal cliff approaches.
"We both decided that there were going to be times when we really needed to call each other immediately and not go through staff. And it was so urgent that when that phone rang, we knew we had a matter that had to be addressed right away. So we installed these phones and used them occasionally, and I never got a busy signal when I called," said Daschle, breaking out in laughter.
Lott recalled, "Sometimes I would get up from my desk and I would go down the hall and I would come in the back door of Tom's office and we would talk. And he would come down to my office. I mean, it's a little thing, but sometimes if the leader says, 'I don't want to do that, it looks like I'm conceding to him.'