- The Washington Times - Monday, January 6, 2003

Republican Sen. Rick Santorum confirmed yesterday that he will step aside as chairman of the Rules and Administration Committee in favor of former Senate Republican leader Trent Lott.
In an interview with "Fox News Sunday," Mr. Santorum, of Pennsylvania, said Mr. Lott's "institutional experience" would make him better qualified to head the committee, which controls the assignment and administration of prized office space on the Senate side of the Capitol and resolves disputes about Senate rules and procedures.
"One of the things I believe very strongly is that we need to put our best team on the field," Mr. Santorum said. "It basically runs the Capitol. It's sort of the mayor of Capitol Hill is the chairman of the rules committee. And I think someone with his tremendous experience as leader in running the operations of the Senate would bring a lot to the table."
Mr. Santorum pointed to other duties he has in the Senate. He already holds a leadership post as chairman of the Republican Conference.
"I mean, I've got enough to do on the other duties that I have," he said. "And I think that Senator Lott can make a contribution and would be a good member of the team."
Mr. Lott resigned as Senate Republican Leader last month after a public firestorm that lasted more than two weeks because of racially charged comments he made at a 100th birthday party for retiring Sen. Strom Thurmond, South Carolina Republican. Republicans elected Sen. Bill Frist of Tennessee to fill the Senate leadership post.
Mr. Lott, of Mississippi, praised Mr. Thurmond's 1948 presidential candidacy. Mr. Thurmond ran as a Dixiecrat on a platform of states' rights and segregation. Mr. Thurmond has since apologized for his views on segregation.
Mr. Lott said on Friday that he would be chairman of the rules committee and hold seats on the finance, commerce and intelligence committees.
"I have the experience and the background to be very much a player," he told the Associated Press.
His former lieutenant, Sen. Don Nickles of Oklahoma, said he was pleased that Mr. Lott would lead a committee.
"I think it's great," Mr. Nickles said while appearing on NBC's "Meet the Press." "We wanted him to be chairman of something. He's a very outstanding senator, and he can make very positive contributions, I think, to our caucus and to the Congress."
Sen. Chuck Hagel, Nebraska Republican, said on CNN's "Late Edition" that "what was worked out is probably appropriate and is a good fit for Senator Lott."

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