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US Senator Chambliss will not seek re-election in 2014

Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia speaks to members of the media on November 16, 2012 on Capitol Hill
Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia speaks to members of the media on November 16, 2012 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Chambliss, who broke with a conservative pledge not to raise taxes, said Friday he will not seek re-election in 2014.

Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss announced Friday he will not seek re-election next year, expressing frustration with Washington gridlock that he said had shown the US Congress "at its worst."

His retirement will trigger a fierce battle for his seat, with Georgia conservatives in the House of Representatives likely to jump into the race.

Chambliss was one of the first Republicans to publicly break with a conservative pledge not to raise taxes.

But he insisted the threat of a looming primary challenge from a far-right candidate was not why he was declining to seek a third six-year term in the Senate.

"I have no doubt that had I decided to be a candidate, I would have won re-election," he said in a statement.

"Instead, this is about frustration, both at a lack of leadership from the White House and at the dearth of meaningful action from Congress, especially on issues that are the foundation of our nation's economic health."

The ranking Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee expressed anger over fellow lawmakers who fueled partisan bickering in recent years, culminating with a showdown over US fiscal woes and a 2:00 am, New Year's Day vote in the Senate to avert the so-called fiscal cliff.

"The debt-ceiling debacle of 2011 and the recent fiscal-cliff vote showed Congress at its worst and, sadly, I don't see the legislative gridlock and partisan posturing improving anytime soon," Chambliss said.

"For our nation to be strong, for our country to prosper, we cannot continue to play politics with the American economy."

Three conservatives in the House of Representatives -- Paul Broun, Phil Gingrey and Tom Price -- were considered likely candidates in a Republican primary battle for the seat.

The senator has a largely conservative record, but he has drawn anger from some conservatives for seeking bipartisan compromise on fiscal issues.

Chambliss and fellow Senator Johnny Isakson of Georgia both voted for the deal negotiated in the final days of 2012 that averted the so-called "fiscal cliff." All eight House Republicans from the state voted against it.

Chambliss also helped lead the bipartisan "Gang of Six" senators who in 2011 began working together on resolving the US debt ceiling crisis. They proposed a solution that included raising tax revenues as a way to help reduce the deficit by nearly $4 trillion over 10 years.

In November, he dismissed conservative Grover Norquist's longstanding pledge, signed by most Republicans in Congress, not to vote for any tax increases. "I care more about my country than I do about a 20-year-old pledge," Chambliss said.

Democrats expressed early optimism at the prospect of expanding their 55-45 control of the 100-seat Senate, saying a divisive primary battle could push Republicans to the far right.

"Georgia will now offer Democrats one of our best pick-up opportunities of the cycle," said Guy Cecil of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Chambliss is the second senator in as many weeks to announce his retirement. Veteran Democrat Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia said he was not seeking re-election in 2014, providing Republicans with a prime opportunity to snap up a seat in a state staunchly opposed to President Barack Obama.