Sen. Lamar Alexander announced Tuesday he will resign his Republican leadership position in January, promising to be “more, not less aggressive on major issues."
In a speech on the Senate floor, Alexander, who is 71, also noted that he plans to run for a third, six-year term in 2014.
Alexander has been Republican Conference Chairman, the Senate’s third-ranking Republican, for nearly four years. His term ends in January.
“Stepping down will liberate me to work for results on the issues I care the most about,” Alexander said. “That means stopping runaway regulations and spending. But it also means setting priorities – confronting the timidity that allows runaway health care spending to squeeze out research, scholarships, highways and other government functions that make it easier and cheaper to create jobs. I want to do more to make the Senate a more effective institution so that it can deal better with serious issues.
“For four years my leadership job has been to help others succeed, to find a Republican consensus and to suggest a message. There are different ways to offer leadership. After nine years in the Senate, this is how I believe I can now make my greatest contribution.”
Alexander suggested his decision will let him work toward finding consensus with Democrats in the Senate.
"The United States Senate requires 60 votes to achieve a result on serious issues and 60-vote results simply cannot be found among only Republicans, or only Democrats," he said.
Here is the full text of Alexander’s remarks:
“Next January, following the annual retreat of Republican senators, I will step down after four years as Chairman of the Senate Republican Conference. At that time, my colleagues will have elected me three times and I will have completed the equivalent of two two-year terms.
“Stepping down from leadership will liberate me to spend more time working to achieve results on the issues I care the most about.
“That means stopping runaway regulations and spending. But it also means setting priorities—confronting the timidity that allows runaway health care spending to squeeze out research, scholarships, roads and other government functions that make it cheaper and easier to create jobs. I want to do more to make the Senate a more effective institution so that it can deal better with serious issues.”
“For four years my job on the Republican leadership team has been to help the Leader and individual senators succeed, to look for consensus within the Republican caucus, and to suggest our message. There are different ways to offer leadership within the Senate. After nine years here, this is how I believe I can now make my greatest contribution. For the same reasons, I do not plan to seek a leadership position in the next Congress. But I do intend to be more, not less, in the thick of resolving serious issues. And I plan to run for re-election in 2014.
“These are serious times. Every American’s job is on the line. The United States produces 23 percent the world’s wealth although we are just 5 percent of the world’s people. People in the rest of the world are figuring out that their brains are no different than ours and they are using their brainpower to create the kind of standard of living that we have.
“Some experts predict that within a decade, for the first time since the 1870s, the United States will not be the world’s largest economy. They say China will be. My goal is to keep the U.S. the world’s strongest economy.
“There are two other matters relevant to my decision that I want to address today.
“First, I said to Tennesseans when I first ran for the Senate that I would serve with conservative principles and an independent attitude. I will continue to serve in that same way. I am a very Republican Republican. I grew up and live in a congressional district that hasn’t sent a Democrat to Congress since Abraham Lincoln was President. My great-great grandfather once was asked his politics and he answered, ‘I fought for the union and I vote like I shot.’
“I have been the statewide nominee of Tennessee Republicans five times. Three times my Republican Senate colleagues have elected me Conference chairman. If I can pass a 100 percent Republican legislative solution I will. The United States Senate requires 60 votes to achieve a result on serious issues and 60-vote results simply cannot be found among only Republicans, or only Democrats.
“Second, stepping down from leadership will allow me to be more, not less, aggressive on major issues. I look forward to this. The Senate was designed to be the forum for confronting the most difficult issues producing the biggest disagreements. I don’t buy for one minute the notion that such policy disagreements produce an unhealthy lack of civility. Those who believe that debates today are more fractious than before have no sense of American history. They have forgotten what Adams and Jefferson said of one another; that Vice President Burr killed former Secretary of the Treasury Hamilton; that on the streets of Washington, Congressman Sam Houston caned an Ohio Congressman who had opposed President Jackson’s Indian Policy; that a South Carolina congressman nearly beat to death Senator Charles Sumner; and that Senator Henry Cabot Lodge often said he hated President Woodrow Wilson. What of the venomous debates before and during the Civil War, the Army-McCarthy hearings, the Watergate era, and the Vietnam War?
“The main difference between now and then is that now, because of so much media, everyone instantly hears or sees differences of opinion. But if you will notice carefully, most of the people you hear shouting at one another on television and radio and the internet have never been elected to anything at all. It would help to produce better results if we senators knew one another better across party lines. But to suggest that we should be more timid in debating the issues is to ignore American history and the purpose of the Senate. In fact, senators do our jobs with excessive civility.
“I have enjoyed these four years in the Republican Senate leadership, and I thank my colleagues for that privilege. I now look forward to spending more of my time working with all senators to achieve results on the serious issues that will determine the standard of living and security for our next generation.”