But Lott can often be spotted in and around the Capitol complex, riding the trains to the office buildings or eating lunch in the Dirksen Senate Office Building, a favorite haunt when he was a Senator. In fact, on a recent afternoon Lott was seen waiting by the elevators on the Senate side.
The Mississippi Republican continues to build relationships with new Members, a skill he honed during his legislative career that began in 1973. In particular, Lott has provided counsel to several Republican candidates, as well as to those who aspire to his path of moving from to the House to the Senate, including now-Sens. Roy Blunt (Mo.) and Rob Portman (Ohio).
Lott said the time that he spends on Capitol Hill is more about the long-term relationships that he built over 35 years in public office, and less about business.
In an era where partisan sniping is the norm, Lott is an outlier for the numerous close friendships that he maintains with those across the political aisle. In addition to keeping in contact with former Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), his counterpart for several years, Lott listed more than a half-dozen Democrats, including Sens. Barbara Mikulski (Md.) and Herb Kohl (Wis.), whom he considers friends.
Lott conceded that the current political environment isn’t ripe for building close personal friendships, even with lawmakers of same political party.
“I do think they’ve kind of lost that,” Lott said, noting the stresses of the job have increased, with pressure to return home and fundraise around the clock. “It’s awfully hard for them to have personal or social relationships like we used to do in the ’80s and ’90s.”
Alexander said his friendship with Lott goes beyond the time they spent in the Senate together.
“He’s a very dear friend. We were roommates when we were in our 20s in Washington,” Alexander said, adding that he probably sees more of Lott than most Senators since their families have vacationed together for a few days the past two years, “I see him, I talk to him, but I do it because we are friends.”
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, speaks with reporters in the Capitol after a speech on the Senate floor that accused the CIA of searching computers set up for Congressional staff for their research of interrogation programs.