Gramm decides against re-election

Wednesday, September 5, 2001

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Phil Gramm announced Tuesday he will not seek re-election next year. The Texas Republican said his decision followed "a long and difficult period of soul searching."

Gramm's retirement will conclude a career that spanned two political parties and a quarter-century of unflinching conservatism.

"Remarkably, the things I came to Washington to do are done," Gramm, 59, told a news conference, his voice breaking with emotion.

He mentioned tax cuts passed under President Reagan and the current President Bush and a federal budget now in surplus.

He predicted a Republican would be elected to replace him in increasingly Republican Texas. The former Democrat was first elected to the House in 1978 and to the Senate in 1984.

Gramm is the third senior Senate Republican to announce he will not seek re-election. Sen. Jesse Helms of North Carolina announced last month he would retire and 98-year-old Sen. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina said when he was re-elected in 1996 that this term would be his last.

"I feel comfortable with this decision," said Gramm, who lost his chairmanship of the Senate Banking Committee earlier this year when Democrats gained controlled of the Senate.

No hint on future

He sidestepped a question about his future plans. Gramm has long been mentioned as a successor to the departing president at Texas A&M University, where Gramm once taught economics.

"When this career is over, I'll start thinking about a new one," he said.

"I love Texas A&M... Maybe it would be best if I weren't on their payroll. ... I've been in academics. Academic politics are a lot tougher than the politics I've been in," he said.

Gramm said he had talked to Bush about his decision. "The president obviously was not happy that I was leaving." Later, he added that Bush was supportive of his decision.

Gramm told the news conference, held in the Russell Senate Office Building, that loss of the chairmanship had nothing to do with his decision to step down, nor had the Democratic takeover.

"Quite frankly, I think we have an excellent chance of taking the Senate back," he said. "It's a luxury to not run," he added.

But he said that had Vice President Al Gore won the presidential election, his decision likely would have been to seek another term.

As to his future, Gramm said he could envision a third career in either the private or public sectors.

"If Coca-Cola called me up today and offered me $50 million to put the fizz back in Coke's stock, I might be tempted. But I've got no reason to think that they're going to do that."

Asked about a presidential appointment, Gramm said, "I'm not ever going to say never." But, he added, "I've had as close to a picture-perfect career in public service as you could have."

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: