Bayh: Love serving constituents, 'but I do not love Congress'

Bayh: Love serving constituents, 'but I do not love Congress'

Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh (D) on Monday blamed the sharp partisanship that divides Washington for his lack of desire to serve there, saying that Congress has grown too divisive for the former governor and two-term senator to continue.

"For some time, I've had a growing conviction that Congress is not operating as it should," Bayh told an audience at an Indiana University-Purdue University campus in Indianapolis. "There is much too much partisanship and not enough progress; too much narrow ideology and not enough practical problem-solving. Even at a time of enormous national challenge, the people's business is not getting done."

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Bayh, who had been facing a sudden re-election challenge from his senatorial predecessor, ex-Sen. Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsTimeline: The Trump whistleblower complaint Trump has named more ex-lobbyists to Cabinet in 3 years than Obama, Bush did in full terms: report Hillicon Valley: FCC approves Nexstar-Tribune merger | Top Democrat seeks answers on security of biometric data | 2020 Democrats take on Chinese IP theft | How Google, Facebook probes are testing century-old antitrust laws MORE (R), cited last month's Senate defeat of a fiscal commission to study the federal deficit, as well as Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidBarr fails to persuade Cruz on expanded background checks Harry Reid warns Trump 'can be reelected' Homeland Security Republican accuses Navy of withholding UFO info MORE's (D-Nev.) scuttling of a jobs bill that had been crafted by Finance Committee Chairman Max BaucusMax Sieben BaucusBottom line Overnight Defense: McCain honored in Capitol ceremony | Mattis extends border deployment | Trump to embark on four-country trip after midterms Congress gives McCain the highest honor MORE (D-Mont.) and ranking member Charles GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyOvernight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — Pelosi unveils signature plan to lower drug prices | Trump says it's 'great to see' plan | Progressives pushing for changes Trump: 'Great to see' Pelosi plan to lower drug prices Pelosi unveils signature plan to lower drug prices MORE (R-Iowa).

"All of this and much more has led me to believe that there are better ways to serve my fellow citizens, my beloved state and our nation than continued service in Congress. To put it in words I think most people can understand, I love working for the people of Indiana. I love helping our citizens make the most of their lives, but I do not love Congress.

"I will not, therefore, be a candidate for re-election to the United States Senate this November. My decision should not be interpreted for more than it is, a very difficult, deeply personal one. I'm an executive at heart," Bayh said. "I value my independence. I'm not motivated by strident partisanship or ideology. These traits may be useful in many walks of life, but unfortunately they are not highly valued in Congress."

A centrist as governor, Bayh has cast several votes distressing to Senate Democrats, usually about fiscal issues. In 2008, for example, he cast a lone vote against the Democratic-passed federal budget, arguing that it was fiscally irresponsible.

However, Bayh said neither his own ideology nor his re-election race had prompted his decision.

"My decision was not motivated by political concern. Even in the current challenging political environment, I am confident in my prospects for reelection," he said. "Five times over the past 24 years, I have been honored by the people of Indiana with electoral success. But running for the sake of winning an election, just to remain in public office, is not good enough, and it has never been what has motivated me.

"At this time, I simply believe that I can best contribute to society in another way -- creating jobs by helping to grow a business, helping guide an institution of higher learning to educate our children or helping run a worthy charitable or philanthropic endeavor."


Bayh's announcement was greeted with a partisan blast by Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, who said the retirement was an example of Democrats "running for the hills."

"The timing isn’t a coincidence either," Steele said. "The fact of the matter is, Senator Evan Bayh and moderate Democrats across the country are running for the hills because they sold out their constituents and don’t want to face them at the ballot box."

Indiana GOP chairman Murray Clark was somewhat kinder, issuing a statement that praised Bayh for serving the state "with distinction for the past 20 years."

"That said, we have always viewed this Senate race as one that would be competitive. Today's announcement cements that view and we really like our chances in the general election," Clark said.

Indiana's deadline to qualify by signature for Bayh's Senate seat is Tuesday; assuming a candidate clears that hurdle, the Indiana Democratic Party will choose a candidate.