The Hill, 9/7/7

When Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) broke ranks and voted with Judiciary Committee Republicans in August to back the most contentious judicial nominee of the 110th Congress, she surprised nearly everyone with a stake in the battle. Everyone, perhaps, except Republican Whip Trent Lott of Mississippi.

Prior to the vote, Feinstein didn’t inform Lott that she had planned to give the decisive vote to back the nomination of Mississippian Leslie Southwick, and she insists that Lott was not influential in allaying her concerns.

Behind the scenes, however, Lott was instrumental in working with Southwick to write a letter responding to concerns raised by the civil rights community about his record on racial issues, two GOP aides say. Feinstein, who asked Southwick to address those concerns in writing, read the letter during the Aug. 2 Judiciary Committee vote.