Washington Sen. Trent Lott's third apology for racially charged remarks should suffice, the Senate's incoming No. 2 Republican leader said Saturday, vowing that a move for formal censure would produce a swift counterattack against a prominent Democrat.
"The first amendment (to a censure motion) that would be offered would be an amendment relating to Sen. (Robert) Byrd's comments in 2001," said Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
Byrd, D-W.Va., used a racial slur in a taped broadcast interview last year. He swiftly apologized at the time, saying "the phrase dates back to my boyhood and has no place in today's society."
Lott, R-Miss., and in line to become Senate majority leader in January, triggered an uproar earlier this month when he made comments at a birthday party for retiring Sen. Strom Thurmond, R-S.C., that conveyed nostalgia for the policies of racial segregation.
Under pressure from Democrats and Republicans alike, Lott has offered a series of increasingly expansive apologies for his remarks, culminating in a forceful denunciation of racism and segregation at a news conference on Friday where he also asked for forbearance and forgiveness.
McConnell, the incoming GOP whip, said in Kentucky that those remarks should be the end of the controversy.
"There are prominent Democrats who have said much worse things within the last year and a half, who apologized one time and it was over," McConnell said in a reference to Byrd. "And I think that should be our approach here."
Byrd's staff had no immediate comment on McConnell's remarks.