By Martin Gould
The Senate is set to lose one of its most influential conservative voices after South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint announced on Thursday that he will step down.
DeMint will take over the Heritage Foundation, and will leave the Senate on December 31. Complete article below.
DeMint, seen as a “kingmaker” with Republican congressional candidates due to his prodigious fundraising abilities, has long said he would not seek a third term in the Senate when his current one runs out in 2016.
But now the Palmetto State’s Republican Gov. Nikki Haley will be faced with appointing a senator who will serve nearly two years in the Upper Chamber before a 2014 election.
Only this week DeMint made headlines when he said House Speaker John Boehner’s offer for $800 billion of increased tax revenues would “destroy jobs and allow Washington politicians” to swell, not reduce, federal deficits.
Boehner made the bid in negotiations with Democratic President Barack Obama to avert the $600 billion in taxes and spending cuts that will start to take effect in January if no deal is reached.
DeMint, 61, will take charge of the conservative Washington think tank, which has an annual budget of $80 million, according to The Wall Street Journal. He will replace Ed Feulner as president of the foundation.
He told the Journal he sees the foundation as a way to connect conservative ideas with the general public. “This is an urgent time because we saw in the last election we were not able to communicate conservative ideas that win elections,” he said.
“We want to figure out what works at the local and state level,” he added, saying he would then try to adapt them for national elections.
He said no group is “better equipped” than the Heritage Foundation to lead the conservative movement.
“I believe my experience in public office as well as in the private sector as a business owner will help Heritage become even more effective in the years to come.”
In a Twitter message, he added, “It’s been an honor to serve the people of South Carolina, now it’s time to pass the torch and take on a new role.”
DeMint has been on Capitol Hill since 1999, serving six years in the House and seven in the Senate. Last year Salon.com called him “perhaps the most conservative member of the Senate.”
Heritage Foundation board chairman Thomas Saunders said, “Jim DeMint has shown that principled conservatism remains a winning political philosophy. His passion for rigorous research, his dedication to the principles of our nation’s founding, and his ability to translate policy ideas into action make him an ideal choice to lead Heritage to even greater success.”
In a statement, DeMint said, ““I’ve decided to join The Heritage Foundation at a time when the conservative movement needs strong leadership in the battle of ideas.
“My constituents know that being a Senator was never going to be my career.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said DeMint informed him of his decision to resign Thursday morning.
“We’re sorry to see Jim go. He’s had a distinguished career,” McConnell told Politico. “My wife [Elaine Chao] is a distinguished fellow at The Heritage Foundation. She’ll be reporting to him.”
DeMint added: “I’m leaving the Senate now, but I’m not leaving the fight. I’ve decided to join The Heritage Foundation at a time when the conservative movement needs strong leadership in the battle of ideas. No organization is better equipped to lead this fight and I believe my experience in public office as well as in the private sector as a business owner will help Heritage become even more effective in the years to come.”
Praise arrived from around the conservative world for DeMint.
“Senator DeMint has done more to advance the cause of freedom and liberty in Congress than anyone else since his election,” said Chris Chocola, president of the anti-tax Club for Growth, in a statement congratulating the senator. “We wish him nothing but the best in his new role at Heritage.”
Republican Study Committee Chairman Jim Jordan praised DeMint.
“There is no better choice than Jim DeMint to lead this great organization. It is disappointing to lose his strong voice in the Senate, but I look forward to his continued conservative leadership at the helm of The Heritage Foundation,” Jordan said in a statement. “The folks at Heritage are an indispensable ideas factory for conservatives in Congress. South Carolina’s loss is the country’s gain.”
DeMint’s decision means that South Carolina will have both its Senate seats up for election in 2014. The state’s senior Sen. Lindsey Graham also faces the voters in that year.
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