Senator Frist, R-Tennessee, was unanimously chosen to replace Senator Trent Lott on Monday in a vote of acclamation by Republicans in the incoming Senate.
Newly elected Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist promised to turn the controversy over remarks by Senator Trent Lott into "a catalyst for unity and a catalyst for positive change."
Forty-two of the 51 Senate Republicans in the upcoming 108th Congress took part in the conference call, said Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pennsylvania.
Moreover, it marked the first time a Senate majority leader was elected over the phone.
The move was aimed at curbing the damage from the racially charged events that led to Lott's having to relinquish the position.
Lott, of Mississippi, took part in the call, Santorum said.
Frist, a 50 year-old surgeon, compared his new duties to a task he has faced before – that of performing a heart transplant.
"My colleagues gave me a responsibility equal to that and in some ways, many would say, even a heavier responsibility," he said following the vote. "I accepted that responsibility with a profound sense of humility."
Pledging to work for "all Americans", Frist was quoted by CNN as saying, "I honestly believe this will transform what has occurred in the last few weeks ... into a catalyst for unity and a catalyst for positive change."
On December 5, Lott made a comment in support of Strom Thurmond's 1948 presidential bid, which was on a segregationist platform. The comment triggered an avalanche that eventually buried his opportunity to remain Senate Republican leader.
In spite of Lott's public apologies and claims that he supports civil rights and equality, public attention was drawn to his record of voting against policies espoused by civil rights leaders and to previous comments supporting Thurmond. Lott gave up his post as Senate Republican leader Friday. (Albawaba.com)
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