Senators Lott and Daschle worked to come up with rules for the trial that could be unanimously adopted. It wasn’t easy. My Republican colleague and friend Slade Gorton of Washington and I, both former state attorney generals, simultaneously reached out to each other and began to draft a proposal for a trial in which the House managers and the president would each be given ample opportunity to present their case and answer questions and then the Senate would vote whether to begin a full trial. In effect, it would be a vote on a motion to dismiss the articles of impeachment. If that motion passed, as we expected it would, the Senate would proceed to consider a motion to censure President Clinton.
Senators Lott and Daschle liked the proposal, but the House managers did not because they thought it gave too short consideration to their articles of impeachment. So, as we approached the date in January when the trial was to begin, the Senate had not reached a consensus on rules and procedures. In fact, Chief Justice William Rehnquist convened the trial and recessed it because we had no rules. Someone suggested that the 100 senators hold a special bipartisan closed caucus in the Old Senate Chamber and talk it out as colleagues and friends. That historic place reminded us that we were making history ourselves and each of us had an interest in making it in a way that would help the country then and the Senate in the future. Several senators offered their ideas and at one point, Senators Lott and Daschle said, “It sounds to us like Phil Gramm and Ted Kennedy have just made essentially the same points. If these two of our colleagues can agree, certainly the rest of us should be able to.”
And that is what happened. It is also how a mutually respectful tone was created. Every senator voted for the proposed impeachment trial rules that Senator Lott brought before the Senate that day. It was an encouraging way to begin a difficult time in the Senate.