Washington (CNN) – While issuing a harsh critique of the partisanship that often has the Senate in gridlock, Olympia Snowe, a three-term moderate Republican from Maine, stunned her colleagues Tuesday when she announced she would not seek re-election.
Her unexpected decision could make it more difficult for hopeful Republicans to win back the majority in the chamber where Democrats currently hold a 53-47 seat advantage.
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"I do find it frustrating," Snowe said in a statement, "that an atmosphere of polarization and 'my way or the highway' ideologies has become pervasive in campaigns and in our governing institutions."
Snowe, 65, is one of just a handful of reliably moderate senators - from either party – who regularly worked across the aisle and often voted with the other side. For instance, she provided just one of three critical Republican votes for President Obama's fiscal stimulus plan in 2009, helping the controversial plan pass.
"Unfortunately, I do not realistically expect the partisanship of recent years to change over the short term. So at this stage of my tenure in public service, I have concluded that I an not prepared to commit myself to an additional six years in the Senate, which is what a fourth term would entail," she said.
Sen. Susan Collins, Maine's other moderate Republican senator, said Tuesday she was "devastated" to learn Snowe was leaving the Senate.
"Olympia could always be counted on as a leader who sought solutions, not political advantage," Collins said in a statement.
The decision caught Democrats off guard too.
"Whoa," said Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, a Democratic leader, when told the news in the Capitol.
"She's a good lady and an example of sometimes how the roughness of the political world can affect things," he said. "She's great and she'll be missed by people on both sides of the aisle."
Asked about Democrats' chances to pick up the seat, Schumer declined to predict.
"I'm not going to talk about that," he said.
In her statement, Snowe insisted she would have won re-election but didn't have the stomach to remain in Washington. While she faced a tea party primary opponent Republican leaders felt confident the popular Snowe would have beaten back that challenge.
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, who heads the Senate Republican campaign committee, issued a statement praising Snowe but also vowing to hold her seat.
"Maine has a proud history of electing independent leaders, including a Republican governor in 2010, and while this will be a key battleground in the Fall, I am confident it will remain in Republican hands," he said.
Snowe was not available for interviews Tuesday but an aide said she plans to address the media later in the week in Maine.
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Yep, they elected a Republican governor. He has been an embarrassment to the state from day one. A tea party trumpet who cannot get along with anybody on either side of the aisle who seems to stick his foot in his mouth every time he opens it up. Another state having buyer's remorse on this one.
To bad there are not more republicans that put country before party, who actually cares about put something like a party before your countries interest, shameful.
This is what is happening in the Republican Party. The extreme right is pushing out the moderates. Another one bites the dust.
Regardless of our party affiliation We all should feel horrible that Olympia is retiring against her will. She is one of the few politicians who's more interested in solutions for the people rather than partisanship. There is no question she would win her Maine's republican primary. Even if she lost the primary she could still win as a write-in or independent candidate.
She was one of the few Republicans I respected. She understood that you need to come to some sort of consensus to get the Senate working for the people. Something Mitch McConnell and Jim DeMint will never learn.
too bad obamya doesn't follow suit
This honorable lady clearly doesn't fit in with the current Teavangelical atmosphere of the Republican Party. I suspect she actually wanted to see America pull out of the recession rather than block all progress for politics. Moderates are the solution for America but unfortuantely, the Republicans won't elect rational people.
Ms. Snowe could you ask McCain to join you?! lol
Oh and and McConnell too!!
Good for Olympia! Go out and enjoy life now. Leave your fellow hyper-partisan Republicans to fend for themselves in the Senate and be miserable without you for the next six years. Good luck to you!
Senator Snowe, I concur with your comments and wish you would reconsider.
Thank you for all you've done for all of us.
Good for Senator Snowe. I'm convinced that if integrity and principles are not welcome in Congress, than those with integrity and principles have a duty to get out and publicly speak out. I haven't agreed with all of her decisions, but I admire any politician who recognizes when a system is broken and refuses to just hang out anyway, enjoying the power. She made the right decision.
►Citing partisanship, Snowe stuns with departure news◄
And this is what the Republican Party has come to – the moderates are abused
The far-Right TP maniacs brought the party so far-Right to where hurts
And the more moderate "sensible" Pubs are tired of being jerked!
Olympia is leaving but not in defeat – Don't worry, Republicans, a Democrat will take her seat!!!
This is sad. It is evidence that even those IN Congress see it is not functioning. I respect Olympia Snow and while sad I understand her news.
bye, bye..... RINO