GOP Senators May Meet Over Lott's Future

Senate Republican leaders are considering calling a meeting of the rank and file for early January to settle the fate of GOP Leader Trent Lott in the wake of a racially-charged controversy, party sources said Monday.

These sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said officials were discussing a Jan. 6 date for the session. That's the day before the Senate offically convenes for a new session under GOP control.

Several Republicans declared their support for such a meeting on Sunday, and Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont., joined that effort Monday.

"It is not fair for us to leave Sen. Lott's future as Senate majority leader uncertain, nor is it helpful for the party to let the issue go unresolved," Burns said in a statement. "There needs to be some closure very soon."

The developments came as White House spokesman Ari Fleischer called Lott's support of a 1948 segregationist presidential campaign "offensive and repugnant," increasing pressure on the GOP's Senate chief amid a challenge to his leadership.

Fleischer refused several times to defend Lott's position as GOP Senate leader one day after Oklahoma Sen. Don Nickles called for new leadership elections.

"The White House isn't commenting on that," Fleischer said. "The White House doesn't comment on every idea, every motion."