The political world was shocked today with the news that Tennessee Republican Senator Lamar Alexander has chosen to step down from Republican leadership as of January. The southern senator, who currently is the third ranking Republican in senate after Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Whip John Kyl , was expected to be angling for the Whip role himself in 2013 when Kyl retires.
Alexander said in a statement, “Stepping down from leadership will liberate me to spend more time working for results on the issues I care most about. I want to do more to make the Senate a more effective institution so that it can deal better with serious issues. There are different ways to provide leadership within the Senate. After nine years here, this is how I believe I can now make my greatest contribution. For these same reasons I do not plan to seek a leadership position in the next Congress.”
But could it have been this drive for “consensus” that may have pressured Alexander into stepping down? Does he even fit in a new Republican party that insists on “my way or the highway” legislation? Politico notes, “[H]is affable nature and calls for bipartisanship also could prove to be a liability at a time when Republican politics has shifted markedly to the right, with tea party activists demanding that their party adhere to strict conservative orthodoxy that has inspired a new breed of fire-breathing lawmakers on Capitol Hill.”
In fact, his step back from Republican power could be a true sign that the party is even more intent on assuring that there is no compromise in the ranks. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, lamented the loss of Alexander, saying, “I don’t know all the reasons for his doing this, but I want the record to be spread with the fact that I have found Lamar Alexander to be one of the most thoughtful people I’ve ever served with in the Senate. He’s a unique person in this body, he accomplishes a great deal, and gets credit for not a lot.”
Alexander will still continue in the senate and will still run for reelection.
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