COLUMBIA, S.C. - Gov. Nikki Haley has picked U.S. Rep. Tim Scott as South Carolina's next senator.
Scott is the only black Republican in Congress. The decision announced Monday makes him the South's first black Republican senator since Reconstruction and only the fourth black Republican ever in the U.S. Senate.
He takes over for Jim DeMint, who announced earlier this month he would forgo the remaining four years of this term to take the helm of The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. His resignation takes effect Jan. 1.
Scott started with a moment of silence for the school shooting victims in Connecticut. He says the country needs backbone to make difficult decisions.
Scott will serve for two years. A special election for the term's remaining two years will be held in 2014.
Scott to replace Jim DeMint in the Senate
After announcing Scott to replace Jim DeMint in the Senate Monday in the capitol rotunda, Haley was quick to point out Scott's race wasn't a factor.
"What I will also tell you as a minority woman, Scott earned this seat," said South Carolina's Governor Nikki Haley.
Scott also downplayed his race, saying his conservative message is important.
"What I've never been asked is besides the fact that you are black. They ask me about values and issues," said Scott.
Political expert Dr. Michael Bitzer said the Republican defeat in the presidential election made it clear, the party needs to reboot.
"Symbolically, it will certainly show that Republicans learned lessons from this year's election. ... That they have to expand beyond an older, white male base," said Bitzer.
No matter the reason, Scott has his work cut out for him when he takes over DeMint's job in January.
He jumps from the Republican-controlled House to the
Democratic-controlled Senate, possibly with fiscal cliff deadlines still looming.
Senator Lindsey Graham offered these words of advice.
"You go there by being Tim Scott, not Jim DeMint, keep doing that and it will be good for our state," said Graham.
Scott said he will take over for DeMint