Lott to resign from Senate

Washington Post:

Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) will announce this afternoon that he's retiring from the Senate late next month, stunning Republicans who had only last year reinstated the 67-year-old to their leadership ranks.

Lott, the minority whip, made the decision over the Thanksgiving weekend with his family in Pascagoula, Miss., according to a senior Republican insider. Lott's move shocked Republicans on Capitol Hill, who have seen a wave of veterans announce their decision to not seek re-election next year as the GOP looks increasingly certain to remain in the minority. But Lott is the most senior Republican to retire, and his decision comes barely a year after he won re-election to a six-year term.

Lott's departure is equally stunning because, after cruising to his re-election last year, he completed a political rehabilitation from allegations of racial insensitivity because of remarks he made at a 100th birthday party for Strom Thurmond in December 2002, which led to his banishment from GOP leadership. Last November, after four years as a back-bench Republican who burnished his image as a deal-maker, Lott won a narrow race to become GOP whip, the No. 2 post in leadership.

"Fatigue has set in," said the GOP aide, requesting anonymity to speak freely about a decision that will not be formal until a noon press conference in Pascagoula, Miss. (Check back to Capitol Briefing during the day for updates on Lott's press conference.)

Lott, 67, grew tired of the political infighting in the Senate as Republicans have been forced into a position of merely blocking a Democratic agenda, the aide said, stressing that the decision was not connected to any health or ethical issues.

Gov. Haley Barbour (R) will be allowed to appoint a successor to the seat, but a special election to fill the remainder of the term is likely to be scheduled for next November. Barbour and Lott are both close to Rep. Chip Pickering (R-Miss.), who worked for the senator before winning his own House seat. Pickering had decided earlier this year to retire at the end of next year rather than run for re-election to his House seat. Democrats had been wooing former state Attorney General Michael Moore to run against Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) next year but Moore demurred. (See "The Fix" for more details about the race to succeed Lott in Mississippi.)


Cilliza says Rep. Roger Wicker is also in the picture with Pickering. Pickering is probably the one with the most national name recognition because his father was the subject of a bitter fight over his appointment to the circuit court. While the Post sees this as more Republican problems, it has the potential of bringing in fresh blood from a state that is still trending Republican.


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