South Carolina Republican Jim DeMint, one of the most conservative of conservatives leaders in the U.S. Congress and a founder of Washington's Tea Party movement, will resign from the Senate to take over the Heritage Foundation, one of the most influential think tanks in the country. DeMint is just two years in to his second six-year term, but had previously announced he wouldn't seek a third term. The resignation will take effect in January, before the start of the new term.
His departure won't immediately influence the balance of the Senate, as South Carolina governor Nikki Haley, a fellow Republican, will get to appoint his successor. However, his replacement will have to run again in 2014, the same year Lindsey Graham will be up for re-election as well. People are already suggesting that the spot could go to U.S. Representative Tim Scott, who last year became the first black Republican House member from South Carolina since 1901.
DeMint is arguably the most influential politician to associate himself with Tea Party movement, a position that found him butting heads with GOP leadership in Congress. Perhaps sensing the futility of that job in a body where the Republicans remain in the minority, DeMint says he's switching jobs to "elevate the conservative cause." He told The Wall Street Journal, "This is an urgent time because we saw in the last election we were not able to communicate conservative ideas that win elections." He's talking about an election that many called a disastrous for the Tea Party. While some may disagree, it's clear that he feels he can accomplish more (and make more money) outside the Senate than inside of it.