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Power loss ‘devastating,’ Republican leaders say

BROOKHAVEN — Lincoln County Republicans say the loss of partycontrol of the U.S. Senate and of Sen. Trent Lott as MajorityLeader are “devastating” for Mississippi.

Former U.S. Rep. Mike Parker said he was sad to see the GOP losecontrol of the U.S. Senate following Vermont Sen. James Jeffords’decision to leave the Republican Party and become an Independent.The switch broke a 50-50 split in the Senate and gave the MajorityLeader post to Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D.

“I think there’s a lot of difference between being MajorityLeader and Minority Leader,” Parker said.

As Majority Leader, Lott, along with Sen. Thad Cochran, wassuccessful in steering federal dollars to Mississippi and gave thestate an influential role in national politics. Parker said thedifference between Majority and Minority Leader has an effect “inevery way.”

“The Majority Leader of the Senate is a very powerful position,one of the most powerful in government,” Parker said. “I don’tthink the average Mississippian had an idea of how powerful Trentwas.”

Chuck Nelms, chairman of the Lincoln County Republican ExecutiveCommittee, said he was in Washington Wednesday visiting with Lottand Cochran around the time the Jeffords switch was developing.

“It was not doom and gloom. It was disappointing,” Nelmssaid.

Nelms said there was a discussion about political differences,such as Jeffords’ pro-choice stance and desire for changes ineducation spending plans, that the Vermont senator had with theRepublican Party.

“When he looked in his core, he was more liberal than his partywas,” Nelms said of Jeffords.

Like Parker, Nelms spoke about the political setback for thestate due to the switch and its ramifications.

“This didn’t help Mississippi at all,” Nelms said.

Nelms mentioned some federal judgeship nominations for statejudges and District Attorney Dunn Lampton’s nomination for U.S.Attorney that could be affected. The Senate must confirmnominations to federal posts submitted by the President.

“Those may not be held up, but they may be,” Nelms said aboutthe nominations.

Lampton said he did not think his nomination would bedelayed.

“If a Democrat takes the White House in 2004, all the U.S.attorneys are toast,” Lampton said.

Unlike U.S. attorneys, who can change with presidentialsuccessions, federal judgeships are lifetime appointments. Lamptonindicated those may be more of a target if Democrats were lookingto hold up nominations.

“That’s where all the focus is,” said Lampton, who is awaitingan FBI background check as part of his nomination process.

Nelms offered an optimistic spin in that Lott will still be theRepublican leader in the Senate. He said Lott could still work withthe 49 GOP senators and about a dozen Democrats who believe inPresident Bush’s program.

Nelms said he was sad personally to Lott out of the MajorityLeader post. However, Lott in his new role and Cochran remain in aposition to help Mississippi.

“That role will still be there, but it’s a potentially lesseffective role,” Nelms said.