Jim DeMint To Leave Senate
South Carolina Republican Sen. Jim DeMint abruptly announced Thursday his retirement from the U.S. Senate, a day after a number of fiscal conservatives were purged from their House committee seats.
“It’s been an honor to serve the people of South Carolina in United States Senate for the past eight years, but now it’s time for me to pass the torch to someone else and take on a new role in the fight for America’s future,” DeMint said in a statement.
DeMint will head the conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation, replacing Ed Feulner as president in early January.
A Tea Party leader who easily won re-election in 2010, DeMint was considered at odds with his own party over several issues. He was able to successfully derail President Bush’s attempts to get amnesty for illegals back in 2007, and once said he would rather see a minority of “rock-ribbed conservatives” in the Senate than a majority of moderate ones.
DeMint was instrumental in getting several Tea Party conservatives, including senators Rand Paul and Marco Rubio, elected to office. Two candidates he endorsed for the 2012 race, Richard Mourdock in Indiana and Todd Akin in Missouri, failed to win after making controversial comments about rape.
Demint also refused to endorse any Republican candidate ahead of the South Carolina primary last January, even though it was believed he would back Ron Paul over eventual nominee Mitt Romney.
DeMint’s announcement comes a day after House Speaker John Boehner purged several fiscal conservatives associated with the Tea Party from House committee positions, in what many are saying is an effort to get Republicans to agree to tax increases.
DeMint’s retirement is not expected to have a direct effect on official Republican power in the U.S. Senate, where Democrats will hold a 10-seat majority next session. He had earlier said he would retire once his second term ended in 2017.
“We’re sorry to see Jim go. He’s had a distinguished career,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told Politico. “My wife [Elaine Chao] is a distinguished fellow at The Heritage Foundation. She’ll be reporting to him.”
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, a conservative Republican also popular among the grassroots, will pick a replacement. A special election will be held in 2014 for the seat. The state’s other senator, moderate Republican Lindsay Graham, is also up for re-election then. He is expected to face a strong primary challenge from the Tea Party.