The U.S. Senate's number two Republican, Senator Trent Lott of Mississippi, has announced he will retire next month. He becomes the sixth Republican to announce plans to leave the Senate, where Democrats hope to expand their slim majority in next year's congressional election. VOA's Deborah Tate reports from Capitol Hill.
After serving 19 years in the Senate and 16 years in the House of Representatives before that, Senator Trent Lott says it is time to do something else.
"I am announcing today that I will be retiring from the Senate by the end of the year," he said.
Speaking to reporters in Pascagoula, Mississippi Monday, Lott said he and his wife, Trish, are still deciding what to do once he leaves the Senate.
"We do not have anything definitely lined up at this time," he said. "So I just wanted to make that clear. But I do think it is time for Mississippi to elect a new person, a younger person."
Mississippi's Republican Governor, Haley Barbour, is to appoint a replacement to serve until the November 2008 congressional election, when a successor would be elected to complete Lott's term through January 2013.
Lott served as Senate majority leader from 1996 until 2002. He resigned under fire over remarks he made praising South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond's 1948 segregationist campaign for president during a celebration marking the late senator's 100th birthday.
Among those who criticized Lott's remarks was President Bush.
Lott called Mr. Bush Sunday to inform him of his decision to retire.
"He was very kind in his remarks,'" he said. "Over the years we have had our ups and downs, good times and bad times for both of us."
At the White House, spokeswoman Dana Perino read a statement from President Bush praising Lott's service:
"With service in the Republican leadership in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, he has skillfully advanced legislation and effectively championed key principles of our party, including low taxes and a strong national defense," she said.
After Democrats took control of Congress in the 2006 election, Lott was put in charge of lining up and counting Republican votes as the number two Republican behind minority leader Mitch McConnell.
Lott expressed some frustration with the pace of progress on legislation under the Democrats' leadership, and said it was better to be in the majority.
Lott said he had considered retiring in 2006, but decided to run for reelection to help Mississippi recover from the massive devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina. The storm had destroyed his home in Pascagoula. Lott had been critical of the federal government's response to the storm's aftermath.
Lott said he is retiring without any malice or anger, and has nothing but happiness and pride for the work he has done in the Senate and House.
Lott is the sixth incumbent Republican senator to announce plans to leave ahead of the 2008 election. No Senate Democrats have done so. Democrats hope to expand their narrow 51 to 49 majority in next year's contest.