U.S. Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) has announced that he will be resigning from the Senate at the end of this year to take over the helm of the Heritage Foundation. The longtime president of Heritage, Ed Feulner, is retiring after 35 years of leading the nation's premier conservative think-tank.
The move comes as a surprise, and has sent shock waves through conservative circles and Capitol Hill. DeMint had been the de-facto leader of the conservative "resistance" in the U.S. Senate's GOP caucus, and played a major role in getting conservative members like Marco Rubio (R-FL), Mike Lee (R-UT), Pat Toomey (R-PA), Rand Paul (R-KY) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) elected.
With his pending resignation, conservative South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley will appoint a replacement Senator, who will fill in until a special election is held in 2014.
Reactions from conservatives across the nation
Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs: "We at OCPA could not be more pleased with the selection of Sen. Jim DeMint as the next president of the Heritage Foundation. Known for his commendable courage of conviction and principled commitment to federalism, Sen. DeMint is a staunch defender of liberty with a reputation for the strictest possible integrity. As such, he is perfectly poised not just to maintain Heritage’s impeccable record as the premier think tank in the country but also to lead the organization and the entire free-market movement into a new era – one in which policy is grown from the ground up. Sen. DeMint has already indicated that he intends to work closely with state think tanks – like OCPA – to translate policy papers into concrete demonstrations of what works.
Erick Erickson (RedState): While my initial reaction was one of sadness that we are losing the clearest voice in the Senate for conservatives, the upside on Jim DeMint’s departure from the Senate is mind boggling. [...] Jim DeMint’s power in the conservative movement just grew exponentially. A man who was going to retire in four years anyway, will now be leading the conservative movement from its base of operations for years to come.
Without Jim DeMint we would still have a conservative movement that is part and parcel the Republican Party in name, word, and deed. DeMint showed the Republican Party can be challenged from within and that conservatism can be distinctly voiced from within the party moving it right, not moving with it.
The more I think about it, the more I think this is a great thing. Just yesterday, John Hayward noted Jim DeMint may just be the leader of the resistance within the GOP on the fiscal cliff deal. But DeMint has replenished the bench of conservatives within the Senate. As long as he remains there, the new conservatives will be in his shadow.
Jim DeMint is, like Ed Feulner, not indispensable. But his ideas are. It is time for the tea party senators he brought to the Senate to stretch their legs and prove they are Jim DeMint’s ideological heirs. In the meantime, he will be on the outside providing them the support and intellectual ammunition they need.
Ed Morrisey (Hot Air): Frankly, I’m disappointed by the move, although this gives Heritage a big boost. I had hoped to see DeMint act as a conservative leader in the Senate for the next four years, especially with Democrats taking a bigger majority after this past election. Haley will make a wise appointment, I’m sure, and other Republicans in the chamber will get an opportunity to fill his shoes. However, considering the fights ahead of us, it would have been much better to have DeMint as a stalwart on the inside rather than an activist on the outside.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY): "I thank Senator DeMint for his uncompromising service to South Carolina and our country in the United States Senate. Jim helped provide a powerful voice for conservative ideals in a town where those principles are too often hidden beneath business as usual. There is no question in my mind that he raised the profile of important issues like spending and debt and helped galvanize the American people against a big government agenda. I am confident that he will continue to advocate for conservative principles in the next chapter of his service to the American people."
U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL): "Senator DeMint is one of the main reasons why I’m in the U.S. Senate. When I ran for the U.S. Senate two and a half years ago, no one thought I had a chance to win. Jim DeMint was the first person in Washington that believed in me and invested in me, and I’m eternally grateful. Of course, we’re going to be sad that he’s not going to be with us here in the Senate every day, but we’re excited for the new opportunity that he has to lead the limited government, free enterprise movement from outside the Capitol at the Heritage Foundation. We’re just excited about that and look forward to working with him in his new capacity."
Club For Growth: “Senator DeMint has done more to advance the cause of freedom and liberty in Congress than anyone else since his election,” said Club for Growth President Chris Chocola. “Senator DeMint is a champion of economic freedom, a defender of free markets, and one of the strongest allies the Club for Growth has had in the United States Senate. We wish him nothing but the best in his new role at Heritage.”