GOP Sen. Johnny Isakson to resign at end of year

GOP Sen. Johnny IsaksonJohnny IsaksonProgressive group backs Senate candidates in Georgia, Iowa Overnight Health Care: Trump budget calls for cutting Medicaid, ACA by T | Trump proposes removing FDA authority over tobacco | Lawmakers frustrated by lack of emergency funds for coronavirus Anti-abortion group backs Loeffler's election campaign after opposing her Senate appointment MORE (Ga.) announced Wednesday that he will step down from the Senate at the end of the year, citing health issues.

"After much prayer and consultation with my family and my doctors, I have made the very tough decision to leave the U.S. Senate at the end of this year. I have informed Georgia Governor Brian Kemp today that I will resign my Senate seat effective December 31, 2019," Isakson said in a statement.

ADVERTISEMENT

Isakson, 74, was reelected to the Senate in 2016, but his political future has been the subject of speculation for years.

He underwent two back surgeries in 2017 and fractured his ribs during a fall in his Washington, D.C., apartment last month.

In his statement on Wednesday, he cited ongoing health issues as his primary reason for stepping down early.

"I am leaving a job I love because my health challenges are taking their toll on me, my family and my staff. My Parkinson’s has been progressing, and I am continuing physical therapy to recover from a fall in July. In addition, this week I had surgery to remove a growth on my kidney," Isakson said.

He sent a letter on Wednesday to Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) notifying him of his decision to leave the Senate early.

"I therefore am notifying you that I am resigning my U.S. Senate seat effective Dec. 31, 2019. While it pains me greatly to leave in the middle of my term, I know it is the right thing to do for the citizens of Georgia," Isakson wrote.

Isakson's term runs through 2022, and Kemp, under state law, is allowed to fill the vacant Senate seat.

A special election will be held to fill the remaining two years of Isakson’s term during the next regularly scheduled election, meaning Georgia voters will cast ballots for both of the state's Senate seats in 2020, when Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) is also up for reelection.

Isakson's decision to retire immediately sparked speculation that Democrats could try to lure Stacey Abrams, who lost the state's 2018 gubernatorial race, to run for his seat in the special election. But a spokesman for Abrams  shut the door on a new 2020 Senate bid, saying Abrams would not be a candidate.

"Leader Abrams’ focus will not change: she will lead voter protection efforts in key states across the country, and make sure Democrats are successful in Georgia in 2020. While she will not be a candidate herself, she is committed to helping Democratic candidates win both Senate races next year,” Seth Bringman, spokesman for Abrams, said in a statement.

Isakson is the fourth Republican senator in the past year to announce that they will retire. Sens. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderThe Hill's Morning Report — AG Barr, GOP senators try to rein Trump in Overnight Defense: Senate votes to rein in Trump war powers on Iran | Pentagon shifting .8B to border wall | US, Taliban negotiate seven-day 'reduction in violence' The 8 Republicans who voted to curb Trump's Iran war powers MORE (R-Tenn.), Mike EnziMichael (Mike) Bradley EnziLawmakers trade insults over Trump budget cuts Republicans scramble to avoid Medicare land mine McConnell will not bring budget resolution to the floor MORE (R-Wyo.) and Pat RobertsCharles (Pat) Patrick RobertsKobach says he discussed his Senate bid with Trump Republicans expect Trump to withdraw controversial Fed nominee Celebrating and expanding upon five years of the ABLE  Act MORE (R-Kan.), who were each up for reelection in 2020, have announced that they will leave the Senate. Democratic Sen. Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallOvernight Energy: Experts criticize changes to EPA lead, copper rule | House panel looks into plan to limit powers of EPA science advisers | Senate bill aims for net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 Overnight Energy: Trump budget slashes EPA funding | International hunting council disbands amid lawsuit | Bill targets single-use plastics Bill targets single-use plastics in push to make manufacturers responsible MORE (N.M.) has also announced he will retire instead of run for reelection next year.

Isakson first joined the Senate in 2005 after spending six years in the House. He currently chairs the Senate Ethics and Veterans Affairs committees and serves on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions; Finance; and Foreign Relations committees.

He captured headlines earlier this year when he called President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump administration eyes proposal to block jet engine sales to China: report Trump takes track to open Daytona 500 Brazile 'extremely dismayed' by Bloomberg record MORE's criticism of the late Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainEleventh Democratic presidential debate to be held in Phoenix Moderate Democrats now in a race against the clock Biden on Graham's push for investigation: 'I don't know what happened' to him MORE (R-Ariz.) "deplorable," and defended Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterDemocratic senator: 'The ultimate of ironies' for Trump to hit Romney for invoking his faith Committee on Veterans Affairs sends important message during tense Senate time Democrats cry foul over Schiff backlash MORE (D-Mont.) against backlash from Trump in the wake of Ronny Jackson's withdrawal from consideration as the next Veterans Affairs secretary.

Senators on Wednesday quickly praised Isakson, who remains well-liked in both parties despite growing partisanship in the Senate.

"He's a gentleman who's spent his career looking for common ground and actually trying to accomplish something in Washington. Wishing Johnny and Dianne all the best today," Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerUS prosecutors bring new charges against China's Huawei Lawmakers grill Census Bureau officials after report on cybersecurity issues Senate GOP blocks three election security bills MORE (D-Va.) tweeted.

Sen. John CornynJohn CornynBooker, Cornyn introduce bill to fund school nutrition programs Three Senate primaries to watch on Super Tuesday Democrats seek to drive wedge between Trump, GOP on whistleblowers MORE (R-Texas), meanwhile, called Isakson a "wonderful human being and a great Senator." And Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntBooker, Merkley propose federal facial recognition moratorium GOP senators defend Sondland, Vindman ousters: They weren't 'loyal' McConnell displays mastery of Senate with impeachment victory MORE (R-Mo.) said in a statement that "no one is more respected by the other members of the Senate than Johnny Isakson is."

Reid Wilson contributed to this report, which was updated at 11:33 a.m.