Sen. Jim DeMint is “very interested” in the Senate Finance Committee seat being vacated by Sen. John Ensign (R., Nev.), his spokesman says. Ensign announced his resignation last week, effective May 3, citing concerns over an ongoing ethics committee investigation.
DeMint, a Tea Party favorite, has long coveted a seat on the powerful committee, and despite numerous appeals from conservative groups like the Club for Growth, he’s been passed over. But now, per seniority rankings, DeMint is next in line.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell will ultimately decide who gets the the seat. Some predicted that McConnell would bypass DeMint in favor of a less controversial member like Sen. Johnny Isakson (R., Ga.). However, Isakson recently withdrew his name from consideration in order to remove potential concerns over a conflict of interest (Isakson is the top Republican on the ethics committee responsible for investigating Ensign), a move that would appear to improve DeMint’s chances of being selected.
DeMint spokesman Wesley Denton reiterated the senator’s interest in the position in a statement: “This is where the big policy battles are taking place that will determine the future of our country. This is where entitlement reform will be written to balance the budget, it’s where Obamacare will be repealed, and it’s where our tax laws will be reformed to ensure that America remains the best place in the world to do business,” Denton said, adding: “[Sen. DeMint] understands the seat will be filled by the Republican Leader and [he] will respect his decision.”
For Sen. Orrin Hatch (R., Utah), the ranking Republican on the finance committee, DeMint’s interest in the seat provides an opportunity to continue his recent courtship of the Tea Party as he prepares to face a tough battle for reelection in 2012. It will be interesting to see if Hatch weighs in before McConnell does. Hatch’s press secretary Antonia Ferrier tells NRO it’s “too preliminary” to discuss at this point.