Conservative firebrand Jim DeMint’s decision to resign from the Senate to lead the Heritage Foundation comes at a pivotal juncture for Congress, which is grappling over how to address looming tax hikes and sweeping spending cuts. The anti-tax South Carolina lawmaker has been a thorn in the side of party faithful on such issues, often bucking leadership on the budget and pressuring others to do the same.
Thus, his resignation comes as a surprise — especially to members of his home state’s delegation, some of whom he has mentored — and his departure from the upper chamber early next month will occur as Congress embarks on what could be landmark reforms to the nation’s tax code. Still, as House Speaker John Boehner tries to wrangle members of his conference both now and later, DeMint figures to play an outsized role in budget negotiations and other matters, even from his post at the conservative think tank.
After addressing the foundation Thursday morning, the soon to be ex-senator asserted that he can effectively advance conservative principles from outside Congress. “I’ve played a role in stocking the Senate with solid conservatives who are younger and brighter and better spokesmen than I am, so I know I’m leaving the Senate better than I found it,” he told reporters. “But this is an opportunity to do more to get the American people behind them. . . . A lot of my role in the Senate has been stopping bad things and saying ‘no’ to bad things, and we need to do more than that and tell Americans what we’re for.”