Senator Jim DeMint, the Senate’s most prominent tea party patron, is reportedly leaving Congress for a position with the conservative Heritage Foundation.
The departure of the Republican would likely leave the balance of power in the Senate intact, given that he hails from staunchly conservative South Carolina. And it would allow him to influence the debate through the Heritage Foundation, a leading conservative voice with plenty of clout on Capitol Hill.
"This really gets my blood going again thinking about the possibilities,” DeMint told the Wall Street Journal. “This is the time to elevate the conservative cause.”
DeMint’s decision also underscores some of the fractures bedeviling the Republican Party as Congress and the White House negotiate over a solution to the fiscal cliff. Several conservative advocacy organizations quickly denounced a counteroffer from Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, that would raise $800 billion in revenue through unspecified tax code changes.
Among those condemning the move: the Heritage Foundation’s sister organization Heritage Action for America and Sen. DeMint, who said Boehner’s plan capitulates to President Barack Obama's agenda.
"Speaker Boehner's $800 billion tax hike will destroy American jobs and allow politicians in Washington to spend even more, while not reducing our $16 trillion debt by a single penny,” DeMint said in a statement on Tuesday.
The 61-year-old legislator, currently serving his second congressional term, will replace Ed Feulner as head of the foundation. Feulner will stay on with the organization as a chancellor, where he'll chair Heritage's South Asian Studies Center.
South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley will be responsible for appointing someone to fill DeMint’s seat until a special election is held.