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Leading pro-Israel voice quitting Senate

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WASHINGTON (JTA) — U.S. Sen. Evan Bayh, a leading Democratic pro-Israel voice, announced he is not running for re-election this year.

Bayh, a former governor of Indiana, was first elected to the Senate in 1998 and was considered a shoo-in for re-election to a third term, even in a climate increasingly unfriendly to Democrats.

He announced his decision Monday afternoon at a news conference in Indianapolis.

Bayh, a centrist, was a pro-Israel stalwart. Last year he crafted far-reaching Iran sanctions legislation with Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.). Some of its measures, including restrictions on the president’s ability to waive the sanctions, were included in another Iran sanctions bill passed last month by the Senate. It’s not clear whether the measures will survive the process of reconciliation with a U.S. House of Representatives sanctions bill.

Among other reasons for stepping down, Bayh cited Washington’s increasingly polarized atmosphere.

"Two weeks ago, the Senate voted down a bipartisan commission to deal with one of the greatest threats facing our nation: our exploding deficits and debt," he said in a statement first released to the Indianapolis Star. "The measure would have passed, but seven members who had endorsed the idea instead voted ‘no’ for short-term political reasons.

"Just last week, a major piece of legislation to create jobs — the public’s top priority — fell apart amid complaints from both the left and right. All of this and much more has led me to believe that there are better ways to serve my fellow citizens, my beloved state and our nation than continued service in Congress."

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