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."


Bayh, who had been facing a sudden re-election challenge from his senatorial predecessor, ex-Sen. Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsHillicon Valley: Tim Cook visits White House | House hearing grapples with deepfake threat | Bill, Melinda Gates launch lobbying group | Tech turns to K-Street in antitrust fight | Lawsuit poses major threat to T-Mobile, Sprint merger Hillicon Valley: Tim Cook visits White House | House hearing grapples with deepfake threat | Bill, Melinda Gates launch lobbying group | Tech turns to K-Street in antitrust fight | Lawsuit poses major threat to T-Mobile, Sprint merger House Intel to take first major deep dive into threat of 'deepfakes' 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 ReidTrump weighs in on UFOs in Stephanopoulos interview Trump weighs in on UFOs in Stephanopoulos interview Impeachment will reelect Trump MORE's (D-Nev.) scuttling of a jobs bill that had been crafted by Finance Committee Chairman Max BaucusMax Sieben BaucusOvernight 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 Judge boots Green Party from Montana ballot in boost to Tester MORE (D-Mont.) and ranking member Charles GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyBottom Line Overnight Defense: Pompeo blames Iran for oil tanker attacks | House panel approves 3B defense bill | Trump shares designs for red, white and blue Air Force One On The Money: Pelosi says no debt ceiling hike until deal on spending caps | McConnell pressures White House to strike budget deal | Warren bill would wipe out billions in student debt | Senate passes IRS reform bill 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.