WASHINGTON — Missouri Rep. Roy Blunt, the No. 2 Republican in the House, announced Thursday that he is stepping aside after Democrats added to their numbers in Congress and captured the White House.
Blunt said he had long ago decided that if Republicans did not reclaim the majority in Tuesday's elections, he would leave the difficult job of shepherding votes.
"Ten years of asking people to do some things they don't want to do is a long time," Blunt, 58, told reporters Thursday morning. "I can tell you more problems about more members of Congress than you'll ever want to hear; I can tell you more reasons not to do something than you'll ever want to hear."
Blunt was elevated into leadership by former whip and majority leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, and was schooled in the hardball tactics employed when DeLay was a driving force in running the House.
Blunt's move avoids a difficult intraparty battle with protege Eric Cantor, a Virginia Republican who's already campaigning for the job of Republican whip.
Blunt says it's time for a new generation of Republicans to assume leadership roles. Cantor is 45.
"We're in a totally new environment now," Blunt said. "We need to find a new way forward."
Blunt also said he was impressed with the campaign of Barack Obama and that it would be a mistake for Republicans to assume that Democrats would overreach now that they will control both the White House and Congress for the first time in 16 years.
Meanwhile, conservative Indiana Rep. Mike Pence has been recruited by GOP Leader John Boehner of Ohio to serve as chairman of the Republican conference, the No. 3 leadership post vacated by Florida Rep. Adam Putnam on election night.
That job has traditionally had a focus of crafting and communicating the party message.
"I've encouraged Mike to run for the job of conference chairman because there is no one in our ranks who does a better job of articulating the GOP message of freedom and smaller government," Boehner said. "He's also proven himself to be a team player with the ability to bring our members together."
Boehner will remain GOP leader despite the disappointing results on Election Day. He is also expected on Thursday to endorse Texas Rep. Pete Sessions to take over the GOP's House campaign operation.
Associated Press Writer Laurie Kellman contributed to this report.