Frist will make major role change as Senate leader, says Vanderbilt expert

December 20, 2002

NASHVILLE, TENN-While Tennessee would gain significant legislative clout should Sen. Bill Frist become the next majority leader, the powerful post would require a major role change for the heart surgeon, according to Vanderbilt political scientist Bruce Oppenheimer.

He says Frist, who founded and directed the Vanderbilt Transplant Center before being elected to the Senate in 1994, has established himself as an active player in legislative policy formation. However, Frist would have to focus much of his time on running the Senate should he become majority leader.

Oppenheimer also says that Frist is viewed by his Senate colleagues as very close to the White House, which would have its pluses and negatives for Frist as Senate leader. Oppenheimer predicts that Frist will undergo much tougher scrutiny of his political and personal activities than previous Senate majority leaders as a result of the controversy surrounding Trent Lott.

Editor’s note: Bruce Oppenheimer teaches and writes extensively about Congress and legislative processes, political parties and public policy. He is the co-author of the award-winning book Sizing Up the Senate: The Unequal Consequences of Equal Representation. Oppenheimer can be reached at (615) 322-6232 or by email at

Media contact:Ann Marie Deer Owens, (615) 322-NEWS

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