POLITICS

Scott poised to become first black Republican senator in 34 years

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Politics,Congress,Susan Ferrechio,Campaign 2012,Politics Digest

Tim Scott, a Tea Party favorite from South Carolina who was elected to the House of Representatives in 2010, has been tapped to replace outgoing U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint and will become the first black Republican senator in more than three decades.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, the first Indian-American governor of her state, said her decision to name Scott is "historic in many ways" but she was mostly swayed by his efforts to push pro-business, fiscally conservative policies.

Haley said Scott "stood out remarkably" for fighting for lower taxes and reduced spending as well as for battling federal efforts to shut down a nonunion Boeing plant in the state. He remains a member of the House until the end of the year and could prove to be a real thorn in the side of GOP leadership as they try to cut a deal to avert the so-called fiscal cliff.

"We can't solve the problem we have in this nation today with more tax revenue," Scott told the The Washington Examiner in an afternoon conference call. He said he will not support the fiscal cliff deal House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, is presently negotiating with the White House and which has been loudly rejected by many conservatives. The deal would raise tax rates for those earning more than $1 million in exchange for entitlement reform and unspecified spending cuts.

Scott, 47, said he plans to join the growing Tea Party faction in the Senate, which includes Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Marco Rubio of Florida, among others. Their success will depend "on how we vote and how we stick together, which means discipline versus giveaways," he said.

Scott will be the first black Republican in the Senate since Edward Brooke of Massachusetts left office in 1979. And he'll be the only black of either party in the Senate, with Barack Obama being the most recent Democrat to hold that job.

Haley was swayed to pick Scott because of his fiscal conservatism. "He knows the value of the dollar," she said Monday at a press conference in Columbia.

Scott, raised by a single mother who worked long days as a nursing assistant, will be something of an anomaly in the Senate, where multimillionaires from privileged backgrounds are common. Scott has said he was rescued from a life of obscurity, and possibly poverty and crime, by a Charleston Chick-fil-A manager who took an interest in him as a youth. He served 13 years on the Charleston City Council before defeating Paul Thurmond, son of longtime Sen. Strom Thurmond, in a primary before being elected to the state's 1st Congressional District.

After Scott was introduced by Haley at the news conference, he talked about his upbringing by a mother who was a strict disciplinarian who "understood that love sometimes comes at the end of a switch."

Scott said he began thinking about the Senate seat last week when DeMint called him to say he was resigning.

DeMint is the Senate's top Tea Party advocate and was said to have endorsed Scott to succeed him.

But Scott only learned that he would get the job Sunday night, when Haley invited him "to sit and chat about the future of America."

Haley said she made the decision "late last week and it's one I'm very proud of."

sferrechio@washingtonexaminer.com

sferrechio@washingtonexaminer.com

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