The move had been expected, but now it’s official: Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) has resigned his No. 3 spot in Senate Republican leadership, while Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) has moved up to join his party’s leadership team.

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) (Brendan Smialowski/GETTY IMAGES)

Alexander had announced late last year that he would resign his spot in order to seek other ways of leading in Congress. Though the Tennessee Republican denied it, the move was interpreted by many on Capitol Hill as a tacit acknowledgment of the difficulty of building consensus across party lines while serving as a member of leadership.

With the departure of Alexander -- who remains in the Senate -- Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) moves up to the No. 3 spot. Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) is No. 4. And Blunt -- who beat back a challenge from tea-party favorite Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) in an intra-party race that drew the attention of many conservative activists -- takes the No. 5 spot of Senate GOP conference vice-chairman.

“There’s no doubt that this is a critical year in America’s future when we’re going to decide who we’re going to be as a nation,” Blunt said in a statement. “Over the last three years, President Obama’s policies have led to record debt and out-of-control spending while families and job creators in Missouri and nationwide struggle to make ends meet. If we’re going to fix the Obama Economy and help put people back to work, we must work together on both sides of the Capitol to pass policies that will jumpstart job creation.”