NASHVILLE - U.S. Senate Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., announced today he is stepping down from his top Republican leadership job to focus more on top issues facing the nation's future and working to resolve gridlock in the chamber.
In a floor speech and a letter to colleagues, Alexander, 71, said he will quit his job in January as Republican Conference chairman, the GOP's No. 3 post.
He also will not seek the No. 2 post as Senate Republican whip job in the next Congress. He emphasized he still intends to seek reelection to a third Senate term in 2014.
"My reason for doing that is this. Stepping down from the Republican leadership will liberate me to spend more time trying to work for more results on issues I care most about," Alexander said in his floor speech.
"That means stopping runaway regulation, runaway spending, but it also means confronting that timidity that allows health care spending to squeeze out support for roads, support for research, support for scholarships and other government functions that make it easier to create private sector jobs.
"I want to do more to make the Senate a more effective place to address serious issues," he said.
As conference chairman he has worked to help the Republican leader and individual members succeed and foster consensus within the GOP caucus and suggest GOP messages, he said.
After nine years, "I've concluded this is now the best way for me to make a contribution."
Alexander, a former Tennessee governor, former U.S. Education Secretary and two-time GOP presidential candidate, was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 2002.
Read more in tomorrow's Times Free Press.