Mississippi Sen. Trent Lott, reelected to the Senate just a year ago, announced today that he will resign by the end of the year.
It's not clear why Lott is leaving. Appearing in Pascagoula, Miss., today, he said only that "it's time for us to do something else." MSNBC is speculating that Lott is leaving now in order to "immunize" himself against the new lobbying law that would otherwise require him to wait two years before making money off his connections to his soon-to-be former colleagues.
Lott served as Senate majority leader, with one short break, from 1996 through 2002, when he was forced to relinquish that post after suggesting that America would have been better off if Strom Thurmond, who ran for the White House as a segregationist, had been elected president in 1948. Over the next five years, Lott made his way back up the ranks of the Senate GOP, eventually becoming the Republican whip last year.
Lott's departure will not have any immediate effect on the balance of power in the Senate. Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, a Republican, will appoint someone to serve in Lott's stead until November 2008, at which time Mississippi voters will choose someone to serve out the remainder of Lott's six-year term. Mississippi has not elected a Democratic senator in more than two decades.