Pushed from his position as Republican leader, Sen. Trent Lott will take over as chairman of the Senate Rules Committee when he returns to Washington next week, feeling no "vengeance in my heart" against the senators who called for his removal.
"I'm a firm believer that everything happens for a reason and you should try hard to bring good out of about anything that happens in your life," Lott said in a telephone interview from his Pascagoula, Miss., home Friday.
In addition to taking charge of the Rules panel, Lott holds seats on the Finance, Commerce and Intelligence committees. Lott sat on all of those panels last year except Intelligence, but did not serve as chairman because of his party leadership role.
"I have the experience and the background to be very much a player," Lott said.
He had been expected to become Senate majority leader after leading the Senate Republican Caucus for more than six years, but gave up his leadership position in December after touching off a political maelstrom when he lauded Sen. Strom Thurmond's pro-segregationist presidential run of 1948.
Lott told Thurmond that Mississippians were proud to have voted for him at the time, adding, "If the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years either."
After Lott stepped aside, Republicans elected Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) as majority leader in the new Senate.
"I'm not going back with vengeance in my heart.... I set this fire myself and I do not intend to go around trying to blame anybody else," Lott said Friday.