Senator Bob Corker, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, announced on Tuesday that he would leave his seat when his term expires at the end of 2018, The Hill reports.
While Corker is the first senator to announce that he will retire, Senator Orrin Hatch has yet to decide whether he will run for reelection, The Hill adds. Corker said that he “looks forward to finding other ways to make a difference in the future.”
Sources close to Corker confirmed that he told Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, fellow Tennessee GOP Senator Lamar Alexander and President Donald Trump about his decision to retire before his announcement. Corker’s announcement came hours after Republicans announced they would not hold an eleventh-hour vote on a bill to make good on their years-long pledge to repeal and replace ObamaCare because they could not secure the 50 votes needed to let Vice President Mike Pence break a tie.
The decision also precedes a competitive GOP primary in Alabama where Senator Luther Strange, the establishment candidate backed by Senate Republicans, is trailing conservative former state Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore in polls.
A victory by Moore, backed by former White House strategist Steve Bannon, would be seen as a sign that other incumbent Senate Republicans face a real danger of being defeated in primaries, The Hill notes.
Corker’s retirement is also expected to set off a scramble among Republicans to try to succeed him. Representative Marsha Blackburn told The Hill on Tuesday she’s considering running for his Senate seat in 2018 and some consider her to be the favorite, while conservative activist Andy Ogles, who leads the state’s arm of Americans for Prosperity, announced a primary challenge to Corker earlier this month.