When giving up power is liberating

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., number three in the Senate Republican leadership, turns away after talking about his decision to step down from his post in January, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2011. At right is Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

When Lamar Alexander, the genial Senator from Tennessee, announced last week that he would give up his position in the Republican Senate leadership at the end of the year, it was a rare event - people here seldom give up power.

His reason was also a little out of the ordinary. He said it would liberate him to work on issues he "cared the most about."

You can't really blame him. The gridlock runs so deep, even those involved can't stand it anymore.

Alexander is a dyed-in-the-wool Republican, but he still practices a skill that's become almost as rare as giving up power. Time and again, he's worked on finding compromises with Democrats to break legislative log jams.

He told Ruth Marcus of the Washington Post, "If I could get 100 percent Republican solutions, I'd do it. But you need 60 votes to pass anything in the Senate, so you have to find coalitions."

It is not exactly a reassuring comment on government when someone feels they have to LEAVE a leadership position and relinquish power to get anything done.

But such is the sad state of government these days.

I wish the liberated Senator Alexander well.

Who knows? With the mess we're in, he may be on to something.

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    Bob Schieffer is a CBS News political contributor and former anchor of "Face The Nation," which he moderated for 24 years before retiring in 2015.