CNN Wolf Blitzer Reports - Transcript
Tuesday, May 24, 2005
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BLITZER: For more on the compromise worked out last night, we're joined by two influential members of the Senate-Republican Trent Lott of Mississippi. He's in our studio. And up on Capitol Hill, Senator Mark Pryor, Democrat of Arkansas.
Senators, thanks very much for joining us. Senator Lott, what does this say about the future of the Senate in this session this year and next year, in terms of the moderate center now really controlling the process as far as judicial nominees is concerned?
SEN. TRENT LOTT (R), MISSISSIPPI: I don't think you should make too much of that, Wolf. It came together in this instance because there really was a need for it. We were going to go forward with a vote to put this rule in place that it only took 51 votes to confirm these judges or we were going to come up with a process that would stop the serial filibusters.
I think a lot of credit goes to Senator McCain, Senator Pryor, Senator Nelson, others that were involved in coming up with at least a process to back away from what has been occurring over the last three or four years.
BLITZER: So does this bode, Senator Lott, for a new, more cooperative Senate?
LOTT: I hope so, Wolf. This-these filibusters have become a real problem. And it has clouded everything really for four years, certainly over the last few months as we have moved steadily toward actually having this vote to put the rule in place. This gives us the opportunity now to calm the rhetoric down, to move these men, women, and minorities that have been obstructed through the process with an up or down vote, and hopefully then get on to some other issues like energy legislation, immigration reform. We...
BLITZER: And that was one of the arguments that a lot of these so-called moderate senators said, get this behind the Senate so you could move on to other critical issues.
Let me bring Senator Pryor in, get his thoughts. What does it say to you about where the U.S. Senate is right now, what we can expect this year and next year during the course of this memorandum of understanding as it's been called, how it will affect judicial nominees?
SEN. MARK PRYOR (D), ARKANSAS: Well, I think that this is a very positive step. I think that it does show that people of goodwill, senators of goodwill can come together and work through the most difficult, most tense issues. And I don't think there's anything-been anything more difficult than judicial nominations in the last few years. So I'm encouraged. I agree with what Senator Lott said. We can't read too much into this, but I think it is a positive sign for the future.
BLITZER: Will-Senator Pryor, will it spill over, for example, into issues like Social Security reform or tax simplification, other issues that could come up in the Senate. Stem cell research a big subject today?
PRYOR: I think it's very possible that it could. I think we need to understand that it may not be these same 14 that come together. We actually had other people that were involved in this process that for one reason or another couldn't sign on the dotted line, so to speak. But there are a lot of senators here-here in the Senate that want to see legislation get done. We have some very big challenges facing this country. Everything, as you mentioned, from stem cell to energy policy to immigration. I mean, you can go down a long list of Social Security and many other things. So we have a lot of work to do if we're willing to do it. And I hope this is a positive sign that we are willing to put our shoulder to the plow and get it done.
BLITZER: Some conservatives, religious conservatives especially, are very disappointed. James Dobson, as you know, Senator Lott, chairman of the Christian Conservative Group, Focused on the Family, issued a statement saying we share the disappointment, outrage, and sense of abandonment felt by millions of conservative Americans who helped put Republicans in power last November. He then goes on and says, "I am certain that these voters will remember both Democrats and Republicans who betrayed their trust."
Those are strong words.
LOTT: They are strong words. And I think they're inappropriate words. It's an example of the overheated rhetoric on both sides. From the left and the right. And by the way, over 33 years in Congress I don't have a reputation of being a flaming moderate or anything of that nature. I'm pretty conservative. And when you look at this group, this was not just a moderate group. I mean, Lindsey Graham wouldn't generally consider himself a moderate... BLITZER: He's a maverick, Lindsey Graham.
LOTT: Well-well, and then there's...
BLITZER: John Warner, on the other hand, is a conservative.
LOTT: Well, and then there were some Democrats that probably would be more liberal. So this was a group that came together and worked together and they produced what I think too is a positive result. It may not be perfect. It may be temporary. But it was good enough for now. And what these groups on both sides tend to do is they lose sight of the forest for all the trees that they're upset about.
BLITZER: There's a bigger picture out there.
LOTT: There's a process here that-where we need-we need to get away from these regular filibusters, and get a little more positive atmosphere going and move some other substantive issues.
BLITZER: Senator Pryor, you're from Arkansas. Where do you stand on the president's threat to veto this additional funding for embryonic stem cell research?
PRYOR: Well, we'll just have to wait to see what the House does. And if it works its way through the Senate what happens there. And certainly, I think that embryonic stem cell research does show some promise, some medical and scientific promise. There's a lot of potential there. But also I think it's important for people in my state that we put the proper ethical framework and parameters around it. So we'll see how it comes out.
BLITZER: Are you inclined to vote for the additional funding, Senator Pryor or against it?
PRYOR: You know, I just can't say yet without knowing exactly what it would look like. But I can assure you that I work very closely with my colleagues. And as it makes its way through the Senate, I work very hard on that issue, and we'll just see where it is.
BLITZER: Senator Lott, what about you?
LOTT: I think Senator Pryor took the right position. Let's see what it is. We want to do everything we can responsibly to find ways to save lives, and to improve the quality of health of all Americans. But we want to be very careful about ethical violations, legal problems that come out of all this, and also what's basically right or wrong. We don't want to get into a position where we wind up harvesting life or taking life to save life. There's got to be responsible balance. There's great potential in human embryonic stem cell research. So let's see what all we can do there.
BLITZER: When you say human, you mean adult stem cell research...
BLITZER: ... or umbilical cord stem cell research beyond the embryonic stem cell research. It gets confusing.
LOTT: It does.
BLITZER: But those are important distinctions certainly on this issue.
LOTT: They are.
BLITZER: Senator Lott, as usual, thanks very much. Senator Pryor, thanks to you as well for spending a few moments with us on this day. We'll see what happens in the Senate in the days and weeks and months to come.
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