By AMY WALTER ( @amyewalter ), Elizabeth Hartfield ( @lizhartfield ) and Chris Good ( @c_good )
The announcement that Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) was resigning at the beginning of 2013, gave political junkies - and plenty of SC politicians - an unexpected early Christmas gift.
DeMint, the unofficial leader of the Tea Party faction in the Senate, has been a thorn in the side of leadership for years. But, his decision to leave the "club" on Capitol Hill doesn't mean that he'll make life any easier for GOP leaders like Minority Leader Mitch McConnell or new NRSC chairman Jerry Moran.
DeMint's resignation to head the Heritage Foundation has huge consequences that go beyond the Palmetto State. Here are some of them:
1) Wither the Tea Party? Just two years after upending Washington (and the GOP), the Tea Party movement has lost its steam. Michele Bachmann barely won re-election in Minnesota. Dick Armey, the leader of the Tea Party group FreedomWorks left the group in a huff (and with a hefty payout), and now DeMint.
2) Can DeMint Have More Influence On the Outside Than Inside? While many have concluded that DeMint's decision is good news for GOP leadership, it's clear that DeMint intends to be just as engaged, if not more so, in pushing the conservative/outsider/Tea Party agenda. Said one former GOP leadership aide: "DeMint is far for dangerous to the 'establishment' in a place where he can criticize every policy decision, every vote and raise millions upon millions of dollars to primary candidates in both the House and Senate - without having to operate in the confines of the building [The Senate]. DeMint in that role will be the arbiter of [conservative] purity.."
3) Will Nikki Haley Make History - And Help Republicans Demographic Troubles At The Same Time?
Less than a month after Mitt Romney and the GOP lost an election due in part to their inability to appeal to non-white voters, a Republican Indian-American female Governor has the opportunity to appoint an African-American Republican man to the United State Senate. In South Carolina of all places!! With DeMint set to take up his new position on January 1st, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley will appoint someone to his seat. State law puts no timeline on her decision. This person will face voters in a special election in 2014. Most insiders the Note spoke with yesterday have concluded that Rep. Tim Scott, an African-American Rep. from Charleston, is the front-runner. Young, charismatic and a Tea Party warrior himself, Scott would be the just the fifth black Senator since Reconstruction.
4) Lindsey Graham Gets A Break?
Just minutes after DeMint's announcement, the Twitter-verse was buzzing that South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham was the biggest beneficiary of the unexpected departure. Graham, who has been willing to compromise with Democrats, is seen by many GOPers as insufficiently conservative. It was widely expected that he'd get a serious primary challenge in 2014. But, a primary for DeMint's seat, the thinking goes, puts all that conservative energy into an open primary instead of a challenge to a sitting GOP Senator. Not so fast though. If Scott is chosen, no serious conservative would challenge him. Which leaves Graham back in a very dangerous spot.
ABC'S RICK KLEIN: They still would have lost the Senate if they hadn't spent the cash. But the news that the National Republican Senatorial Committee shuttled three-quarters of a million dollars to Todd Akin's Senate campaign is mind-boggling enough to draw notice even after a losing campaign. Sen. John Cornyn and NRSC leadership - indeed, virtually the entire national GOP establishment - was clear and adamant: Akin was not and would not receive their support. As Republicans struggle with their proper role in primaries going forward, good luck convincing candidates and activists in any given state to take national signals seriously going forward.
With ABC's Chris Good (@c_good)
HOMELAND SECURITY PREPS FOR ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE. ABC's Jonthan Karl reports for "World News" that U.S. taxpayer dollars funded a counterterrorism summit that included a skit on preparing for a "zombie apocalypsem," according to a report from Sen. Tom Coburn. WATCH: http://abcn.ws/Uqu5EE
GEORGE'S BOTTOM LINE: FISCAL CLIFF, WINTOUR AS AMBASSADOR? In the latest installment of "Bottom Line," ABC's George Stephanopouls says Congress could stay in Washington past Christmas, with fiscal-cliff talks lagging. And Vogue editor Anna Wintour as a U.S. ambassador? Stephanopoulos says America has a long tradition of stars taking on ambassadorships and that if Wintour does, she'll probably be good at it. WATCH: http://abcn.ws/TVYsBD
FISCAL CLIFF: WILL SMALL BUSINESSES SUFFER FROM TAX HIKE? ABC's Devin Dwyer reports: At a sprawling 25,000-square-foot factory outside Dayton, Ohio, David Curliss manufactures high-tech composite fibers, structural adhesives and special sealants known as syntactic foams … with a tax hike on the horizon as part of a deficit-reduction deal as evisioned by President Obama and the Democrats, it may become more difficult to expand his business and hire, Curliss says. "What it absolutely means is less cash for growth in my business," he told ABC News. "In the worst-case scenario, it means we let someone go or have to reduce benefits." Curliss is among an estimated 940,000 Americans who will report more than $200,000 in business income on their individual tax returns in 2013 and pay at the top marginal rates, according to the bipartisan Joint Committee on Taxation. http://abcn.ws/QMxDD8
WITH DEMINT'S EXIT, SENATE LOSES AN IMMIGRATION HAWK. Univision's Jordan Fabian reports: DeMint's unexpected resignation subtracts one of the Senate Republican conference's foremost immigration hawks just before Congress is expected to tackle a comprehensive immigration reform effort next year. … eMint placed himself at the center of the fight over the last comprehensive immigration reform bill in 2007, leading a conservative Republican faction against the bipartisan effort supported by President George W. Bush and dozens of congressional Republicans and Democrats. … Pro-immigration reform advocates cheered DeMint's departure, since he played influential role in rallying conservative opposition to the last immigration overhaul. http://abcn.ws/TYelHC
DOES COLBERT WANT DEMINT'S SEAT? ABC's Sarah Parnass writes: Is Stephen Colbert seeking Jim DeMint's Senate seat in South Carolina? You might think so looking at the @ColbertForSC Twitter account, created Thursday, shortly after DeMint announced his intent to resign and take a position at the Heritage Foundation. … A Colbert candidacy might not be as far-fetched as it seems. "Stephen is honored by the groundswell of support from the Palmetto State and looks forward to [South Carolina] Gov. Haley's call," Colbert spokesperson Carrie Byalick told ABC News. Anyone hoping for a spot in the Senate representing South Carolina has to be a resident of the state. Colbert is known to live with his wife and children in New Jersey, but both he and wife, Evelyn, hail from Charleston, S.C. A house there is listed in the White Pages under his wife's name with the qualifier, "Guest House." http://abcn.ws/125S7Jt
OBAMA LIGHTS NATIONAL CHRISTMAS TREE. President Obama continued the 90-year holiday tradition with the help of a few stars, ABC'S Mary Bruce reports: "In times of war and peace, triumph and tragedy, we've always come together to rejoice in the Christmas miracle," the president told a chilly crowd of 17,000 huddled outside on the Ellipse. "But our tree has been having a hard time recently," he said. … The president, joined by the First Lady, their two daughters, Sasha and Malia, and the First Grandmother, were serenaded by Jason Mraz, James Taylor, Colbie Caillat and The Fray, among others. TV star Neil Patrick Harris hosted the annual ceremony and ABC's Modern Family star Rico Rodriguez, better known as Manny, tried to steal his way into the First Family in a humorous bit. http://abcn.ws/SR7cu4
OBAMA STILL NEEDS GOP ON DEBT CEILING. USA Today's David Jackson reports: The White House repeated Thursday that President Obama does not have the power to raise the debt ceiling on his own; Congress has to do it. During the debt ceiling dispute of 2011, and again during ongoing "fiscal cliff" talks, some supporters have suggested that the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution gives the president the power to pay the public's debts, with or without congressional action. "This administration does not believe the 14th Amendment gives the president the power to ignore the debt ceiling - period," said White House spokesman Jay Carney. http://usat.ly/QKAdJH
FISCAL TALKS SPUR CHARITABLE GIVING. With charitable deductions on the chopping block, The Wall Street Journal's Laura Saunders reports on a rush to give: "Tax uncertainty in Washington is setting off a mad scramble among wealthy taxpayers and charities to maximize donations before the end of the year. Their worry: The tax deduction for charitable giving, a fixture of the tax code for nearly a century, is coming under pressure as part of a broader fiscal agreement now being hammered out on Capitol Hill. The rush shows the extent to which wrangling in Washington over deficit reduction already is affecting the way taxpayers are spending their money. In addition to rethinking their charitable giving, some taxpayers are accelerating large medical expenses, selling appreciated stock and even prepaying mortgages, financial advisers say." http://on.wsj.com/126lJGu
CHRISTIE VETOES HEALTH EXCHANGES. ABC'S Shushannah Walshe reports: With his state still reeling from superstorm Sandy, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie paid a visit to the White House today to ask the president for more hurricane relief. That's right, President Obama, whom he toured his state with in the days following the storm, the two looking for all the world like new BFFs. BFFs without the "forever," perhaps: Today the Republican governor also vetoed state legislation to set up state health care exchanges, from which residents can select a health care plan. The exchanges are required by the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare. The move is largely symbolic, because now the federal government will have to step in to set up exchanges in New Jersey. http://abcn.ws/TKiodu
REPUBLICANS GAVE TO AKIN DESPITE DISAVOWAL. The National Republican Senatorial Committee thoroughly disavowed Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin after his "legitimate rape" comment: NRSC Chairman John Cornyn called on Akin to drop out, and supporters of Akin alleged the NRSC had attempted to freeze GOP donations to his campaign. Needless to say, the NRSC itself promised no help to Akin. But despite all that, USA Today's Deirdre Shesgreen reports: "New campaign finance filings show that the National Republican Senatorial Committee sent $360,000 to the Missouri Republican Party's federal campaign committee on Nov. 1. And the NRSC-which is charged with electing GOP candidates to the Senate-sent another $400,000 on Nov. 2. The state party reported paying almost exactly that amount-$756,000-to Strategic Media Placement, an Ohio firm that Akin had used to buy his TV ad time, on Oct. 30 and Nov. 1. The state party's FEC report shows the funds were for 'W. Todd Akin.'" http://usat.ly/SKdehB
OBAMA PITCHES FISCAL-CLIFF PLAN TO VIRGINIA FAMILY. ABC's Mary Bruce reports: President Obama took his "fiscal cliff" campaign to the living room of a Northern Virginia family today, where he urged lawmakers to extend middle class tax cuts and warned that failure to do so would harm the nation's economy. Putting a human face to the consequences of inaction, the President visited the home of Tiffany and Richard Santana, a high school English teacher and a Toyota employee, to showcase how families would be negatively impacted if they had to pay $2,200 more in taxes next year. "They're keeping it together. They're working hard. They're meeting their responsibilities," Obama explained of the family that submitted their story to the administration's #My2K social media campaign. "You know, for them to be burdened unnecessarily because Democrats and Republicans aren't coming together to solve this problem gives you a sense of the costs involved in very personal terms." http://abcn.ws/11QtEbO
INSIDE THE KOCH EMPIRE: HOW THE BROTHERS PLAN TO RESHAPE AMERICA. Forbes' Daniel Fisher reports, "not even the Koch brothers, who spent tens of millions of dollars during this election cycle (they won't disclose the exact amount) funding direct political contributions and issue-driven "nonprofits," could coerce voters to back their candidates. Mitt Romney's loss was a huge blow to them, both in terms of likely policy outcomes and personal reputation. But those who think the brothers, older and chastened, will now fade away don't understand the Kochs. Not a bit. Obama's victory was just a blip on a master plan measured in decades, not election cycles. "We raised a lot of money and mobilized an awful lot of people, and we lost, plain and simple," says David. "We're going to study what worked, what didn't work, and improve our efforts in the future. We're not going to roll over and play dead." http://onforb.es/UeUOBz
SENATORS TO SCREEN 'LINCOLN,' SEEK WAIVER FOR POPCORN. ABC's Sunlen Miller reports: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., will make a formal appeal to the Senate Rules Committee in order to allow popcorn into the Senate's special screening of the new movie "Lincoln" in the Capitol Complex. The screening, for all Senators and their spouses, will take place in the Capitol Visitors Center on Wednesday, December 19th. Since food is not allowed in the room, the Majority Leader's office must get a special waiver to allow for it. http://abcn.ws/VL9fkn
KIRK TO RETURN AFTER STROKE REHAB. Sen. Mark Kirk will return to the Capitol, ABC's Sunlen Miller reports: For the first time since suffering a stroke in late January, Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., will return to Capitol Hill on January 3, a Senate spokesperson told ABC News. January 3 marks the first day of the new Congress and the spokeswoman says the Senator "remains on track" to be there when the Senate convenes for the 113th Congress. In late January doctors discovered a carotid artery dissection in the right side of Kirk's neck, revealing he had suffered an ischemic stroke. The senator underwent surgery to relieve swelling around his brain stemming from the stroke but doctors cautioned it would be a long recovery ahead and Kirk has not been back to Washington since. http://abcn.ws/121YSMm
@FixAaron: Another late donor to Romney Super PAC: Bob Barker Productions gave $174k on 10/26.
@GregJKrieg: The NHL and the NHLPA should look at Congress and the White House for a model at how to conduct professional negotiations.