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Congress: DeMint exits

“Sen. Jim DeMint, patron saint of the tea party and a would-be Republican kingmaker, announced suddenly Thursday he would resign his South Carolina seat to head Washington’s conservative Heritage Foundation think tank, a shift that reverberated through a soul-searching GOP,” the AP writes, adding, “Prizing ideology over electability, DeMint sometimes infuriated fellow Republicans, picking sides in GOP primaries with decidedly mixed results. He had no patience for centrist Republicans, pushing the party to the right while bankrolling candidates with millions from his political action committee, the Senate Conservatives Fund. In 2010, candidates he ardently supported cost the GOP eminently winnable seats.”

His replacement, by the way, will not be SC Gov. Nikki Haley, who hold appointment power. She ruled that out in a radio interview, per McClatchy: “No, I will not be appointing myself. That is not even an option, not something I’m considering at all.”

What would you do for $1 million a year?

By the numbers:

$174,000 – pay for a United States senator.

$1 million – what the outgoing head of Heritage made last year.

“South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint accomplished very little in the Senate in the traditional sense: He wasn’t a legislator, has no signature laws to his name and has never been part of any major bipartisan negotiations,” Politico says. “But the fact that DeMint leaves the chamber as one of its best-known conservative senators shows how a message man relying on the outside P.R. game can become a powerhouse in his party — often with more influence than the Senate’s old bulls and their laundry list of accomplishments. It also shows how the powerful, ideologically rigid voices outside Capitol Hill urging Republicans to stay true to their conservative principles tend to be the real driving forces in the halls of Congress.”

DeMint went almost immediately on Rush Limbaugh’s radio show:

LIMBAUGH: “I think it’s safe to say that Boehner is not forcing either of you guys out, right?”

DEMINT: “It might work a little bit the other way, Rush.”

“Republican Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, who stunned his colleagues when he announced Thursday he will leave the Senate to head a conservative think tank, said he expects his successor to be named within the next week,” USA Today writes. And, even though he’s made clear he wants Rep. Tim Scott to succeed him, he said, “I told Governor Haley that I would support her recommendation and that I trusted her. It's her decision, not mine."

McConnell’s misstep… “Mr. McConnell, believing that some Democrats would vote against thepresident’s proposal, moved Thursday to put it on the Senate floor for a quick vote,” the New York Timeswrites. “If it could not muster a majority, Republicans were ready to say that Mr. Obama could not even unify his own party. But Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Senate majority leader, called Mr. McConnell’s bluff. He said he would put the debt-ceiling proposal to a vote if Mr. McConnell would let itpass with a simple majority, rather than a filibuster-proof 60 votes. Seeing he had overplayed his hand, Mr. McConnell objected.”

“Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was for a vote to grant the president power to hike the debt limit before he was against it,” National Journal writes. “Within a matter of hours on Thursday, the Republican leader was furiously backpedaling from his own move to force a vote on President Obama’s request for unlimited future borrowing authority. McConnell demanded such a vote in the morning, but by afternoon Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., called his counterpart’s bluff and pressed for an up-or-down vote himself. … It was the rare strategic misstep for a man often described as one of the Senate’s most guiling tacticians. In a week of posturing and positioning on Capitol Hill, people on both sides of the aisle acknowledged that McConnell’s failed maneuver cost the GOP some precious negotiating ground. The question was how much.”