DeMint resignation leaves opening on Commerce Committee

Sen. John ThuneJohn ThuneFive takeaways from the new driverless car guidelines Overnight Tech: Pressure builds ahead of TV box vote | Intel Dems warn about Russian election hacks | Spending bill doesn't include internet measure Sen. Thune slams Dems for protecting Internet transition MORE (S.D.) is the next most senior Republican on the committee, but he was also recently reelected as conference chairman. It is unclear whether he would keep his party leadership role and take on the ranking member position.

 “There is a process for these assignments that will play out and I look forward to discussing this development with my colleagues on the Commerce Committee,” Thune said in an emailed statement.

Sen. Roger WickerRoger WickerGOP pressures Kerry on Russia's use of Iranian airbase GOP to Obama: Sanction Chinese entities to get to North Korea Senate GOP pressures Dems for deal on internet fight MORE (Miss.) would be the next Republican in line after Thune on the panel. His office did not return a request to comment.

"We're all just learning of this now," a Republican aide on the Commerce Committee said. The aide added that there was no plan in place for which member would take over in DeMint's absence.  

Michael Brumas, a spokesman for Minority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellTrump slams Obama for ‘shameful’ 9/11 bill veto GOP chairman lobbies against overriding Obama on 9/11 bill Black Caucus demands Flint funding from GOP MORE (Ky.), noted that the party ratios and membership of each committee are still being decided.

The Commerce Committee, which is chaired by Sen. Jay RockefellerJay RockefellerLobbying world Overnight Tech: Senators place holds on FCC commissioner Overnight Tech: Senate panel to vote on Dem FCC commissioner MORE (D-W.Va.), has jurisdiction over communications policy, technology, interstate commerce, transportation, aviation and other key areas.

“I wish Jim DeMint well in his new position at the Heritage Foundation," Rockefeller said in a statement. "I look forward to working with whomever the Republicans select as the Ranking Member in the 113th Congress. I know the Commerce Committee will continue to work in a bipartisan manner to create economic growth, invest in our future, and protect consumers.”

—Updated at 12:20 p.m. and 2:23 p.m.