Calling it a “historic" and "new" day and flanked by nearly all of South Carolina's congressional delegation, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley appointed Rep. Tim Scott (R-SC) on Monday to fill outgoing Sen. Jim DeMint’s senate seat.
Scott said he would immediately focus on solving Washington's spending problem and addressing its fiscal issues.
"We cannot address from Congress many of the issues and challenges that really affect Americans because that's something that starts at home," Scott said before noting that the one thing the federal government can control is putting its fiscal house in order.
"If you look at the problems of this country, they are spending problems primarily," Scott said.
Haley, by law, had to appoint DeMint's successor. She said while she was "saddened and surprised" when DeMint announced his resignation, Scott "understands the strength we need to have in our business community as we continue to focus on jobs." Haley also said he has shown courage in standing up to the National Labor Relations Board when it tried to prevent Boeing from moving its plant to South Carolina.
Haley also said she appointed Scott because he is known for his fiscal conservatism and “knows the value of a dollar.”
“This man loves South Carolina, and he is very aware what he does and every vote he makes affects South Carolina and our country,” Haley said.
Scott will have to run for a full six-year term in 2014; he acknowledged he has not won anything yet and was looking forward to introducing himself to South Carolina's citizens.
Haley, though, expressed confidence that Scott would win his election in two years.
“I have no doubt he will fly through 2014,” Haley said. “The entire state understands this is the right U.S. senator for our state and our country.”
Haley also said she wanted to say, "as a minority female, Congressman Scott has earned this seat for the person that he is and the results he has shown."
Both Haley and moderate Republican South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham will be vulnerable to primary challengers in 2014. By appointing Scott, Haley wins the favor of conservatives who were clamoring for her to appoint Scott, in addition to getting potential support from Scott's Charleston region.
Since conservatives are not likely to mount a challenge against Scott, Graham's reelection chances could be strengthened if many of the state's top conservatives decide to challenge Graham in 2014, which would split the anti-Graham vote.
Scott's mother, Frances, who played a key role in his upbringing, was at the appointment. Scott talked about how he loved his mother and was thankful "to the good lord and a strong mother."
"My mother did not quit on me," Scott said of his single mother who worked three jobs and 16 hours a day to keep her family off of welfare.
Scott also thanked the late John Moniz, the Chick-fil-A manager who became a mentor and father figure to Scott, for teaching him biblical and business principles that guide him to this day.
DeMint thanked Haley for appointing Scott.
“I knew Gov. Haley would put someone in this seat that we would all be proud of,” DeMint said, thanking Haley for her “faithfulness” to our cause.
And while Scott also said he could not fill DeMint's shoes and was happy that DeMint now had a "bigger and broader and greater" opportunity to influence America from the Heritage Foundation, DeMint said Scott would be better than he was at carrying "the message of opportunity conservatism" in the Senate.
DeMint said “our country needs those positive, optimistic voices” like Scott's to let Americans know that there is a way out of "the quagmire" the county faces.
Graham, at the press conference, said when “it comes to trying to explain what America is all about I cannot tell a better story than the story of Tim Scott.”
“Tim is what America is all about,” Graham said.
Graham said Scott “is a better person than politician and has a unique opportunity to inspire others” as South Carolina’s senator.
Scott, after telling single mothers to "not give up on your kids," noted that while America faces its share of challenges, "the future is incredibly bright for America. He also said the future also looks "great in South Carolina and will reflect the good opportunities coming to our nation."
When a reporter said he wanted to ask the “senator” a question, Scott, thinking the reporter was intending to address current Senators DeMint or Graham, began to step away from the podium. When the reporter said he was directing his question at "Senator Scott," Scott, showing that the appointment has not quite sunk in yet, seemed genuinely moved and noted he was not officially a senator yet.
When asked how he would proceed, Scott said he would take the advice from his late friend and mentor John Moniz.
"Celebrate for about 24 hours and get back to work," Scott said.