Tim Johnson, Kristi Noem, and the Importance of Moderates to Tax Reform

Tim Johnson, Kristi Noem, and the Importance of Moderates to Tax Reform

by Jeremy Scott

Another Senate Democrat is retiring. South Dakota Sen. Tim Johnson will not seek a fourth term in 2014, leaving an open seat that Republicans will be heavily favored to pick up. Johnson's retirement brings the total number of Democrats leaving the Senate to five. The possibility that Johnson will be replaced by a Tea Partier such as Rep. Kristi Noem highlights the increasing partisan divide in the Senate, which has important consequences for tax policy.

While the latest crop of Senate retirements includes mostly old-school liberals (Tom Harkin of Iowa, Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey, and Carl Levin of Michigan), Johnson's departure adds to the scarcity of moderate to conservative Democrats in the Senate, a group that has been important during tax compromises in the past...

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Nothing is set in stone, but former South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds is likely to seek the Republican nomination. And Tea Party groups are already lining up to stop him. The Senate Conservatives Fund would prefer someone other than Rounds. A former staffer for Jim DeMint, who resigned from the Senate in December, has characterized the governor as soft on tax cuts and the role of limited government. They would prefer Noem, a Tea Party favorite. Noem hasn't denied interest in the seat, and early polling shows her running just as well as Rounds...

... Noem... wouldn't play as vital a role in forging tax compromises as Johnson has. Johnson is part of a disappearing bridge between Democrats and Republicans...

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