WASHINGTON — Prominent Republicans and leading conservative groups on Monday cheered the choice of U.S. Rep. Tim Scott to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint as South Carolina’s junior senator.
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a leading potential 2016 presidential candidate who has pushed for greater diversity in the party, praised the selection of Scott, a North Charleston Republican, to become the second African-American Republican senator since Reconstruction and the first from the South.
“I’ve gotten to know Congressman Scott since his election to the House of Representatives two years ago,” Rubio said in a prepared statement. “I know him to be a passionate, thoughtful and sincere advocate for the people of South Carolina and for limited government principles.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., welcomed Scott to the bloc of 47 Senate Republicans.
“As a solid conservative who fights hard for the values and principles he believes in, Tim will help us find real, lasting solutions to the economic challenges facing our nation in the 113th Congress,” McConnell said in a statement. “This is truly an historic moment for the Palmetto State from a governor who’s broken more than a few barriers in her own career.”
Scott will be the first black U.S. senator from South Carolina. Nikki Haley, the daughter of Indian Sikh immigrants, became the state’s first female and first ethnic minority governor with her 2010 election. She announced Monday that she had chosen Scott to replace DeMint, a Greenville Republican.
McConnell and DeMint tangled numerous times over fiscal issues as the South Carolinian pushed his Senate boss to take hard-line stances in favor of spending cuts. Scott, a former state legislator and Charleston County commissioner, had strong Tea Party support but likely will cooperate with McConnell more often than did DeMint.
U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas, head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, also welcomed Scott. DeMint had undercut Moran’s predecessor, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, by backing more conservative candidates to challenge GOP establishment choices in Republican primaries.
Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, a national organization, said she expected Scott to follow in DeMint’s conservative footsteps.
“Tim Scott has taken our core values seriously in the House, and we have every reason to expect similar principled behavior in the Senate,” Martin said.
Chris Chocola, head of Club for Growth in Washington, said his fiscally conservative advocacy group has given Scott a 92 percent lifetime rating on its congressional scorecard.
“Congressman Scott is a fighter for limited government and pro-growth policies in Washington,” Chocola said in a statement. “We can’t wait to see him in the Senate.”
Lesley Clark, David Lightman and William Douglas contributed.