by Todd Jackson
South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley has selected Rep. Tim Scott to replace outgoing Senator Jim DeMint, who steps down on Jan. 1 to lead the conservative think tank, the Heritage Foundation. Scott, who will serve at least until an election to be held 2014, will be the only African-American Senator.
Sen. DeMint had handpicked Rep. Scott as his favored successor. Following the narrow defeat of Florida Rep. Allen West, Scott held the position of the only African-American Republican in the House. Earlier in life, a Chick-Fil-A franchise owner took note of the young Scott, growing up poor and the son of a single mother, and took him under his wing – a training that included both business skills and conservative principles.
DeMint’s retirement is considered a blow to conservatives, particularly in light of the House Republican Steering Committee’s removal of two noted conservatives, Rep. Tim Huelskamp of Kansas, Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan, Rep. Walter Jones of North Carolina, and Rep. David Schweikert of Arizona, from the powerful Budget and Financial Services committees. Taken together, these defeats seem to some on the right as continuations of their defeat on Nov. 6 at the hands of re-elected President Barack Obama, and they are especially troubling as the House squares off with the President over the budget details necessary to avoid the “Fiscal Cliff” facing the nation in less than a month. All signals suggest a GOP readier than before to cave on the President’s demands.
DeMint’s favored choice to replace him, Rep. Tim Scott, was elected as part of the Tea Party class of 2010 on a platform of cultural and fiscal conservatism. He is the owner of an insurance company, for which he worked as financial advisor.
Gov. Haley had a full roster of candidates for the spot, including Rep. Mick Mulvaney, another member of the 2010 Class and a particular favorite of the Tea Party, and Rep. Trey Gowdy, yet another member of the 2010 “class” and a noted battler on both the Government Reform and Judicial Committees.
DeMint has been a reliable voice for causes on the Hill, particularly on budget matters. As Dem. Majority Leader Harry Reid has considered out loud the possibility of changing the rules of filibustering, it would be DeMint who might be most likely to filibuster an agreement particularly disagreeable to conservatives. He voted against the Federal bailouts of the financial and auto industries, consistent with his his objection to increased Federal spending generally; he favors a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.
The Heritage Foundation describes itself as “a research and educational institution—a think tank—whose mission is to formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense.”
Democrats spent a great deal of effort achieving the defeat of incumbent Allen West in Florida and challenger Mia Love in Utah, vexing the GOP by then proceeding to criticize the Republicans as being “too white.” There is no doubt that a Senate appointment for Scott will significantly increase the African-American profile on the Hill simply by his moving to the Upper House, particularly if Speaker Boehner truly is committed to sidelining conservatives in the House.