WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republican Senator Jim DeMint, perhaps the most influential advocate in Congress for the anti-tax, small government Tea Party movement, is resigning from the U.S. Senate.
Here are some facts about the South Carolina lawmaker:
-- Ranked as the most conservative member of the Senate, DeMint, 61, is serving his second term as the junior senator from strongly Republican South Carolina, alongside fellow Republican Lindsey Graham. He joined the Senate in 2005 and was re-elected in 2010. A believer in term limits, DeMint had pledged not to seek a third six-year term but his departure in January to lead the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank was unexpected.
DeMint kept a promise to serve only three terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, representing the South Carolina’s 4th Congressional District, near the North Carolina line, from 1999 to 2005. Before Congress, DeMint ran a market research firm.
-- DeMint has frequently clashed with Republican Party leadership. This week he criticized House Speaker John Boehner, who is trying to negotiate a “fiscal cliff” deal with Democratic President Barack Obama. He said Boehner’s concessions on revenues would “destroy jobs” and let Washington continue to increase the U.S. budget deficit.
He said he decided to join Heritage, one of the most conservative Washington think tanks, to advance his ideology. “I‘m leaving the Senate now, but I‘m not leaving the fight,” DeMint said in a statement. “I’ve decided to join The Heritage Foundation at a time when the conservative movement needs strong leadership in the battle of ideas.”
-- DeMint is strongly anti-spending. He opposed federal bailouts of the banks and automobile companies and backs a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
-- He is a social conservative, backing organized prayers in public schools and opposing abortion in all cases, including for victims of rape and incest. He believes all illegal immigrants should be returned to their home countries, and wants English to be established as the official language of the United States.
-- South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, a fellow Republican, will appoint DeMint’s successor, so DeMint’s departure will not alter the balance of power in the Senate, where Democrats will control a 55-seat majority when the new term starts in January. But his replacement will have to run again in 2014, the same year that Graham is up for re-election.
-- DeMint was born on September 2, 1951, in Greenville, South Carolina, where he still lives. He is married and has four children.
Reporting By Patricia Zengerle. Editing by Fred Barbash and Doina Chiacu