COLUMBIA, SC -- U.S. Rep. Tim Scott, who overcame poverty in North Charleston to build a successful business and political career, was appointed today by Gov. Nikki Haley to the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Republican Jim DeMint.
Haley made the announcement during a noon news conference at the State House with DeMint and fellow U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham at his side.
Scott, who will be sworn in Jan. 3, will become the first African American U.S. senator from the South since Blanche Bruce of Mississippi in 1881.
"It is an historic day in South Carolina," Haley said, but added that, "as a minority female," it was important to her for people to know that "Congressman Scott earned this seat. He earned this seat for the person he is. He earned this seat for the results he has shown."
The Lowcountry Republican will succeed DeMint, who announced on Dec. 6 that he was resigning with four years remaining in his second six-year term to head the Heritage Foundation think tank next month.
Other finalists were U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy of Spartanburg, former S.C. Attorney General Henry McMaster, former S.C. First Lady Jenny Sanford and state environmental agency head Catherine Templeton.
Scott, 47, is expected to take over DeMints role as a Tea Party fiscal conservative in the Senate. DeMint, of Greenville, reportedly favored the congressman as his successor, and Haley said she wanted to appoint someone with the senators ideals.
Scott began the news conference by saying thank you to "my lord and savior Jesus Christ," but quickly moved to the issue that has and will consume federal lawmakers: the federal budget.
"We have a spending problem, ladies and gentlemen, and not a revenue problem," Scott said after Haley introduced him as the state's next U.S. Senator. "It is very difficult for us to fix the problem in a nation with $16 trillion in debt and an annual deficit of more than $1 trillion talking about raising revenue from the top two percent. We could take all the revenue on top two percent and could not close the annual deficit."
Scott said the country's economy is "definitely and definitively on the wrong track."
"We have to look at pro growth principles," he said. "If we raise taxes on top two percent, almost overnight in the first 12 months it would eliminate 700,000 new jobs.
"My objective is to start with the conversation with tax reform and spending reform."
Scott will serve until a special election is held in 2014 for the final two years of DeMints term -- and Scott said Monday he will run for the Senate seat, dispelling any notion that Scott is a "placeholder" appointment.
Haley said last week she planned to appoint a successor she believed could retain the seat. Scott had nearly $420,000 in contributions on hand late last month, according to federal elections records.
"I look forward to having the opportunity to introducing myself to citizens throughout this great state of South Carolina," said Scott, whose political career has been limited to Charleston area voters.
A primary for Scotts 1st district congressional seat should take place in 11 weeks with a general election in 18 weeks, according to state law. The opening is expected to lure a large number of candidates.
Scotts ascension to the Senate came after some life lessons, according to reports about his upbringing.
He was raised by his mother after his parents divorced when he was young. She supported her family working 16 hours a day as a nurses assistant. Scott got jobs working at gas station and movie theater, but he struggled early in high school.