Lamar Alexander will give up his post as Republican Conference chairman—the party’s third-ranking Senate position—in January, and with it his hope of being the Senate GOP whip in the next Congress, he announced today, in what Politico calls a "stunning decision." Alexander says he’s taking the leap because he wants to work to foster consensus in the gridlocked Senate, and felt constrained by his partisan leadership role.
“I want to do more to make the Senate a more effective institution,” Alexander wrote in a letter to his fellow Republicans. “There are different ways to provide leadership within the Senate.” The Wall Street Journal notes that with the centrist out, the GOP leadership can hang an even sharper right. John Thune is next in line for Alexander's post, though Thune said this morning that he intends to run to succeed current Senate GOP Whip Jon Kyl, who will retire in January 2013. Alexander plans to seek reelection in 2014. (Read more Lamar Alexander stories.)