Senate Majority Leader Speaks at Bush Library


He spent 20 years as a surgeon, and has spent the last 12 years in the US Senate. Monday evening, Majority Leader Bill Frist spent an hour speaking at the Bush Library on the role of the Senate in the American government.

Former President George Bush hosted the speech, and began his introduction of the Tennessee senator with a reference to Frist's two decades in medicine, as well as a quick jab at former Senator George Mitchell.

"And Lord knows I could have used a doctor and a leader like Bill helping to lead the Senate when I was there," Bush said. "As it was, the leader at that time did plenty to make me nauseous, so I needed Frist to make me feel well."

Frist began his speech with how his Senate career was ending. Twelve years ago when he was first elected, he said he would only serve a pair of terms.

"I came to that body naïve and inexperienced," Frist said. "Yes, I leave in two-and-a-half months naive, but not so inexperienced."

After running through the role of the Senate through the years, the majority leader spent a majority of his speech recalling a "tyranny of the minority," as he put it. He recounted 10 judicial filibusters starting in 2003 against the current President Bush's nominees for the bench. In more than 200 years before that, there had only been one judicial filibuster.

"It was clear to me that it would be on my watch that we must boldly confront, head-on, the minority's mindless obstruction, no matter who they were, of these nominees," Frist said.

A compromise between the sides was eventually reached before Frist and the majority went forward on votes to change rules.

During audience questions, Frist expressed support for the President's immigration plan for the border with Mexico.

"We have to address the differences on either side," Frist said, "why is this the American Dream here, and Mexico is not the American Dream, and address the worksite itself."

Frist also said a Republican will follow him as majority leader.

"We will not lose majority control," he asserted. "We will likely lose seats. Everybody knows that. But we will not lose majority control of the Senate."

Democrats would have to win 24 of the 33 Senate elections in November to gain control. Frist's soon-to-be-vacant seat is touted by political experts as one that Democrats must take in order to have a shot at winning a majority. Harold Ford is the candidate for the Democrats, and is facing Republican Bob Corker.

Al Gore was the last Tennessee Democrat elected to a Senate seat when he earned enough votes for a second term 16 years ago.

If Republicans were to retain their Senate control, Frist said his whip, Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), would likely be the new majority leader.

A Princeton grad, Frist got his medical degree from Harvard in 1978. His focus was on transplants. He performed more than 150 heart and lung transplants over two decades.

But politics has also obviously been a passion. The Nashville native was elected to the Senate in 1994, and earned the nod from fellow Republicans to become the majority leader in 2002.

His office touts his work to strengthen Medicare, get prescription drugs to seniors, and make health care affordable.

There is a small Texas connection for Senator Frist. His wife, Karyn, is a native of Lubbock.


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