WASHINGTON – Missouri Rep. Roy Blunt, the No. 2 Republican in the House, announced Thursday that he is stepping aside after Democrats expanded their congressional majorities 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 step down from 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 said he wrote himself a letter in Jan. 2007 and mailed it to his office. In the letter, he told himself that if his ideas didn't recapture the House majority in 2008, he would not run again for whip.
"If we had been five votes away from the majority, I might have reconsidered," he said.
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, who was chief deputy whip before rising to the No.2 GOP position in 2002, says it's time for a new generation of Republicans to assume leadership roles. Cantor is 45.
Blunt said he will remain in Congress and intends to go back to the Energy and Commerce Committee.
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.
FOX News' Chad Pergram and The Associated Press contributed to this report.