Lott to resign Senate seat effective end of year - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Lott to resign Senate seat effective end of year

Trent Lott (NBC News) Trent Lott (NBC News)

PASCAGOULA, Miss. (AP) - Mississippi Sen. Trent Lott, the Senate's No. 2 Republican, announced Monday he will retire from the Senate before January, ending a 35-year career in Congress in which he rose to his party's top Senate job only to lose it over a remark interpreted as support for segregation.

"It's time for us to do something else," Lott said, speaking for himself and his wife Tricia at a news conference.

Lott, 66, said he had notified President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour on Sunday about his plans. Barbour, a Republican, will name someone to temporarily replace Lott.

"There are no problems. I feel fine," Lott said.

Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl, who helped broker a bipartisan immigration bill that went down to defeat this year despite President Bush's support for it, will run to replace Lott as the Republicans' vote-counting whip, said spokesman Ryan Patmintra.

Lott described his 16 years in the House and 19 in the Senate "a wild ride - and one that I'm proud of."

He said he was leaving with "no anger, no malice."

Lott's colleagues elected him as the Senate's Republican whip last year, a redemption for the Mississippian after his ouster five years ago as the party's Senate leader over remarks he made at retiring Sen. Strom Thurmond's 100th birthday party. Lott had saluted the South Carolina senator with comments later interpreted as support for southern segregationist policies.

Asked about his conversation Sunday with President Bush, Lott said, "He was very kind in his remarks. Over the years we've had our ups and downs, good times and bad times, both of us."

Bush did not stand behind Lott after his remarks about Thurmond, increasing pressure on the lawmaker to step down from the No. 1 Senate job.

"He said that he felt like I'd be missed in my role" as Senate minority whip, Lott said.

After the 2006 elections, when Democrats recaptured the Senate, Lott was put in charge of lining up and counting Republican votes as whip, the No. 2 job behind minority leader Mitch McConnell.

Lott, who said he wanted "to be able to leave on a positive note," said he began thinking about retiring in August. His term runs through 2012.

His 2006 comeback was an apt outlet for the Mississippian's talents. He was the rare majority leader who seemed to relish the vote-wrangling duties that some of his predecessors loathed.

Lott becomes the sixth Senate Republican this year to announce retirement. Democrats effectively hold a 51-49 majority in the chamber, including two independents who align themselves with Democrats. His retirement means that Republicans will have to defend 23 seats in next year's election, while Democrats have only 12 seats at stake.

Lott expressed some frustration with the pace of progress on legislation under Democratic leadership, and said it was clearly better to be in the majority.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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