Another Appointment Looms: Jon Kyl Leaving Senate at End of the Month

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Jon Kyl's (R-Ariz.) placeholder term to fill the seat of late Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) had barely started before it was over.

Kyl told Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey in a letter delivered to the governor's office Thursday that he felt it would be good for a replacement senator to make a fresh start with the 116th Congress beginning in January.

"Thank you for appointing me to the U.S. Senate to fill the vacancy created by John McCain's death," Kyl wrote, according to the Arizona Republic. "It has been an honor and a privilege to again serve the people of Arizona."

"When I accepted your appointment, I agreed to complete the work of the 115th Congress and then reevaluate continuing to serve," he added. "I have concluded that it would be best if I resign so that your new appointee can begin the new term with all other Senators in January 2019 and can serve a full two (potentially four) years. Therefore, I will resign from the U.S. Senate effective 11:59 p.m. EST December 31, 2018."

Kyl, 76, the former Senate minority whip, served in the upper chamber from 1995 to 2013 and had been lobbying for a D.C. law firm since leaving Congress. He returned to the Senate in September, after McCain's Aug. 25 death from brain cancer. The choice was praised by Cindy McCain.

At the time of the appointment, Ducey said he hoped he'd get a commitment from Kyl to serve longer than the end of the year.

Under Arizona law, Gov. Doug Ducey (R) named McCain's successor to serve until the 2020 election. The winner next November will serve the remainder of McCain's term, until the 2022 election. With Kyl leaving, Ducey would make another appointment to serve until the election.

Though working behind the scenes to shepherd Supreme Court picks, Kyl had not indicated he's a Trump loyalist, saying in a February interview that the president is a “phenomenon that has to be dealt with.”

“I don’t like his style. I think it is boorish. I think he’s own worst enemy. He could be much more effective if he were more politique, more diplomatic — of course, that’s one of the things that people like about him — the fact that he isn’t that way. But I think there’s a happy medium,” Kyl said.

Kyl said at the time of his appointment that he doesn't have a relationship with Trump. "Sometimes his desire to jump into the middle of a fight or create a fight... can be detrimental to what he's trying to achieve," he said, standing by the "boorish" comment.

Since arriving in the Senate this time around, Kyl has been the lead sponsor on three bills, one to lower the estate tax.

Ducey could appoint Rep. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), who lost her bid for the seat of retiring Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) in November. McSally got 47.6 percent of the vote compared to 50 percent for Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.).

The Washington Post reported Thursday, though, that McSally's "stock has fallen in the eyes of the governor" in part due to a post-election memo that Ducey saw as the candidate not owning up to her mistakes, blaming her loss on external factors including strong Democratic fundraising, a geographic disadvantage and voter hostility toward President Trump.