Another Rat Jumps Ship; Trent Lott to Resign Senate Seat
New lobbying regulation laws that go into effect in 2008 could produce a rush of end of year resignations by Republicans dreading working in a congress with an ever greater Democratic Majority.
NBC news reports,
NBC News has learned that Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., the minority whip is in the midst of informing close allies that he plans to resign his senate seat before the end of the year. It's possible a formal announcement of his plans could take place as early as today.
Lott is the sixth senate Republican to announce his resignation this year. He has not yet given a reason, not even the standard GOP "desire to spend more time with family" explanation most commonly used by Bush appointees and Republican members of congress.
NBC speculates that Lott is resigning early to avoid restriction on lobbying by retiring legislators-- restrictions that go into effect starting next year that requires retiring senators to wait two years before becoming a highly paid lobbyist.
Lott's departure opens up a position within Republican leadership, and there could be a fight to replace him. Lamar Alexander, who ran for the position last year, would be a natural candidate, but there are plenty of GOP up-and-comers who could compete for the slot, including Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), and Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), who are part of the current leadership team and could be looking for a promotion to the no. 2 spot in the hierarchy.
His term expires in 2012; and a resignation would prompt a special election to fill the remainder of his term.
In 2006, he was reelected with 64 percent of the vote. This will be a tough one for Democrats to pick up.
Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R) will name a successor to serve through the general election of 2008. Among the likely candidates to fill out Lott’s term are Rep. Chip Pickering (R-Miss.) and former Mississippi Attorney General Mike Moore (D). Another possible GOP contender for the seat would be Rep. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.)
Barbour will have to name a successor within 10 days of Lott’s official resignation.
When my former congressman, Jim Greenwood, retired, in 2004, he took a job as a lobbyist, paying over $800,000 a year. That laid the groundwork for Patrick Murphy to take a seat that would have been unassailable had Greenwood held on to it.
Now, Sen. Trent Lott has resigned, joining Denny Hastert in avoiding tougher 2008 lobbying Rules. My guess is that at least a few more high powered Republicans, not looking forward to an even weaker Republican minority in the house and senate come 2009, will be joining the rats who have already jumped ship. That will make it MUCH, MUCH easier for Democrats to capture seats that were held by incumbents.
The GOP is very short on money, and so they are recruiting wealthy candidates who can carry their own weight and pay their own way. The problem is, that kind of candidate does not usually win. Making a lot of money does not include the same skill set as campaigning and persuading voters to elect you.
The questions are, how many and which other Republican congressional leaders will decide it is time to jump ship early, so they can hitch a ride on the lobbyist gravy train a year earlier. Once 2008 rolls around, new laws will require legislators to wait two years, instead of the current one year before starting as a lobbyist. That could cost some of these Republican legislators a cool million or more dollars for that first year's work. And, as the new 2009 congress launches, with diminishing Republican influence, could even cost the Republicans job opportunities altogether. That said, there may be some Democratic resignations too. After all, the Democrats will probably have more say in funding.