WASHINGTON — Senator Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee and one of the last bridges to bipartisanship in the Senate, announced on Monday that he will not seek re-election in 2020.
In a statement, Mr. Alexander, 78, a senator since 2003 and a former Tennessee governor, said that “now it is time for someone else to have that privilege.”
Mr. Alexander, a two-time presidential candidate and former secretary of education, is known for his strong relationships with Democrats and Republicans and his efforts to forge bipartisan legislative deals, a fading art in a Senate increasingly driven by partisanship and polarization. His decision to leave is the latest evidence that Washington has become a less attractive place for legislators interested in steering a middle course on seemingly intractable issues such as education and health care.
“We have got a fractured country,” Mr. Alexander said last year as he tried to broker a bipartisan plan to stabilize the Affordable Care Act. “This is the most important institution for creating a consensus on tough issues like health care, like civil rights, like elementary and secondary education.”
The effort to repair former President Barack Obama’s signature health care legislation — with Senators Patty Murray, Democrat of Washington, and Susan Collins, Republican of Maine — failed when Republican leaders refused to put two measures to a vote. That blockade was emblematic of broader bipartisan measures that tread on politically sensitive turf.
In recent years, old guard senators like Mr. Alexander have given way to brasher, more partisan lawmakers, many from the House. Representative Marsha Blackburn, a fellow Republican from Tennessee, will take retiring Senator Bob Corker’s seat in January, an example of the changing of the guard.
She praised Mr. Alexander for his work over the years and said in a statement, “His leadership is a model to be emulated.”
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