Tea party fa­vorite Demint re­sign­ing from U.S. Se­nate

Austin American-Statesman - - THE SECOND FRONT - By Donna Cas­sata s.c. Gov­er­nor to choose re­place­ment By David Light­man Mcclatchy News­pa­pers

WASHINGTON — Sen. Jim DeMint, pa­tron saint of the tea party and a wouldbe Repub­li­can king­maker, an­nounced sud­denly Thurs­day he would re­sign his South Carolina seat to head Washington’s con­ser­va­tive Her­itage Foun­da­tion think tank, a shift that re­ver­ber­ated through the GOP.

Just two years into a sec­ond, six-year term, DeMint said he would step down Jan. 1 to helm Her­itage while con­tin­u­ing the con­ser­va­tive fight. He will re­place Ed­win Feulner, who made more than $1.2 mil­lion last year.

The 61-year-old law­maker, known to hurry home to South Carolina nearly ev­ery week­end, had sig­naled this term would be his last. But his abrupt an­nounce­ment shocked even his clos­est Repub­li­can col­leagues.

“When he told me this morn­ing, I about fell off my couch,” said South Carolina’s other se­na­tor, Repub­li­can Lind­sey Gra­ham. “I didn’t see this coming.”

Priz­ing ide­ol­ogy over electabil­ity, DeMint some­times in­fu­ri­ated fel­low Repub­li­cans, pick­ing sides in GOP pri­maries with de­cid­edly mixed re­sults. He had no pa­tience for cen­trist Repub­li­cans, push­ing the party to the right while bankrolling can­di­dates through his po­lit­i­cal ac­tion com­mit­tee, the Se­nate Con­ser­va­tives Fund.

“One of the most re­ward­ing things I’ve done in the Se­nate is work with the grass roots to help elect a new gen­er­a­tion of lead­ers who have the courage to fight for the prin­ci­ples of free­dom that make this coun­try so great,” DeMint said in his state­ment an­nounc­ing his de­par­ture. “I’m con­fi­dent th­ese sen­a­tors will con­tinue the legacy of con­ser­va­tive lead­ers be­fore them.”

DeMint also has some­times been a thorn in the GOP side on leg­is­la­tion, just this week crit­i­ciz­ing House Speaker John Boehner’s “fis­cal cliff’ coun­terof­fer to Pres­i­dent Barack Obama that would raise tax rev­enue $800 bil­lion as crush­ing for Amer­i­can jobs.

Democrats pointed out that in fac­ing off this fall against a party DeMint helped push right­ward, they in­creased their num­bers in this year’s elec­tions and will hold a 55-45 The res­ig­na­tion of Sen. Jim DeMint gives Gov. Nikki Ha­ley sole author­ity to choose South Carolina’s next se­na­tor, and the only in­di­ca­tion she’s made is that it won’t be her. Ha­ley could make his­tory by ap­point­ing Rep. Tim Scott. A Repub­li­can, he would be­come South Carolina’s first AfricanAmer­i­can U.S. se­na­tor. State law gives Ha­ley no time­line, though she says she won’t drag out a de­ci­sion. Whomever she chooses would hold the seat un­til an elec­tion in 2014. edge in the Se­nate next year.

“His ef­fect on the sys­tem may have been more ben­e­fi­cial to Democrats than to Repub­li­cans,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

Sen. John Cornyn, RTexas, who headed the Na­tional Repub­li­can Sen­a­to­rial Com­mit­tee, said he and DeMint agreed as con­ser­va­tives “on 95 per­cent of the is­sues.”

“I wish him well,” he said.

There are sev­eral Repub­li­cans who owe their seats to DeMint, and they ex­pressed ap­pre­ci­a­tion for a man they con­sider the in­sti­ga­tor of the tea party move­ment.

“We have a much big­ger lib­erty cau­cus in the Se­nate than we did be­fore,” said Sen. Rand Paul of Ken­tucky, one of the tea party-backed con­ser­va­tives DeMint helped elect. “I think a lot of that is thanks to Jim DeMint.”

Said Florida’s Marco Ru­bio: “I would not be in the U.S. Se­nate had it not been for Jim DeMint tak­ing a shot on me.”

In an in­ter­view Thurs­day with con­ser­va­tive ra­dio host Rush Lim­baugh, DeMint said he was frus­trated with the GOP when it held the ma­jor­ity dur­ing the Ge­orge W. Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion. “But I am also re­as­sured that we have now stocked the Se­nate with some of the strong­est con­ser­va­tives in the coun­try to­day and that’s a big change. So I’m leav­ing the Se­nate bet­ter than I found it,” he said.

Se­nate Repub­li­can leader Mitch McCon­nell said DeMint forced Washington to ad­dress eco­nomic is­sues. WASHINGTON — Repub­li­cans on Capi­tol Hill are split be­tween hard-core con­ser­va­tives and prag­ma­tists in a bat­tle for the soul and con­trol of the party af­ter un­ex­pected elec­tion set­backs last month.

The strug­gle is ev­i­dent in ve­he­ment dis­agree­ments over their re­sponse to the fis­cal cliff and a leader as­sert­ing his power over way­ward mem­bers. Among vot­ers, polls warn that Amer­i­cans would blame Repub­li­cans if eco­nomic chaos en­sues, while con­ser­va­tive in­ter­est groups in­sist this is no time to com­pro­mise. And among GOP in­sid­ers, a brawl could be

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