Newly installed Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., Wednesday pledged to pursue bipartisanship and what he called "united governance" as Democrats took control of the Senate.
Daschle and Minority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., pledged to work together to conduct business just as they worked through issues when Republicans held the majority.
Meanwhile, Republicans scaled back their demands for what must be included in a new organizing resolution--the first major task facing Democrats and Republicans in their newly reversed roles.
Daschle told reporters he recognized the unique historic nature of a mid-session shift in power, and said Democrats would strive to be fair in their dealings with the GOP, often having criticized Republican rule in the past.
"It would be hypocrisy at its worst if we were going to take the same tactics. We're not going to do that," said Daschle. "The tenuous nature of our majority requires that we act accordingly."
Lott took a similar tone, saying: "The good times, we will remember and try to repeat. The bad times have already been forgotten."
There were continuing signs of a de-escalation of rhetoric over the organizational resolution, which must be passed before new Democratic chairmen can operate their committees effectively. And Republicans appear to be backing down on their demand that the resolution establish new procedures to ensure that the Senate considers presidential nominations.
Senate Republican Conference Chairman Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, who last week hinted Republicans might filibuster the resolution if Democrats did not meet their concerns, today said, "I've said all along that I don't want to change the rules of the Senate to disadvantage members."
Democrats--despite their accommodating rhetoric--have shown no signs of willingness to cede new authority to Republicans on nominations. Daschle said Democrats would "respect the process" currently in place.
Minority Whip Don Nickles, R-Okla., said: "I think it's going to work . I think it's going to be fine." Nickles said he expected a minimum wage bill, accompanied by some tax relief, to pass this year. But he said "it remains to be seen" whether a compromise can be reached on a patients' rights bill, which Daschle has pledged to bring up after completing work on the education bill.
Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, a key moderate, said it would be better if Republicans and Democrats can come to some "mutual understanding, rather than making some major changes, that may not stand the test of time."
The softening of the GOP stance came as Republicans could no longer ignore their new minority status. The Senate today passed a resolution naming Sen. Robert Byrd, D- W.Va., as the new Senate president pro tempore.
Until the Senate passes a new organizational resolution, freshmen must go without committee assignments, and panels are composed of members from the 106th Congress, many with GOP majorities. Daschle said Democrats would make decisions about new panel assignments after the organizational resolution is passed.
NEXT STORY: The Earlybird: Today's headlines