DeMint resignation leaves opening on Commerce Committee

Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneMcConnell names Senate GOP tax conferees Overnight Health Care: 3.6M signed up for ObamaCare in first month | Ryan pledges 'entitlement reform' next year | Dems push for more money to fight opioids Dems push for more money for opioid fight 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 Frederick WickerSenator predicts Congress will wrap up tax work in two weeks The Hill's Whip List: Where Republicans stand on Senate tax bill US warship collides with Japanese tug boat 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 McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP strategist donates to Alabama Democrat McConnell names Senate GOP tax conferees Brent Budowsky: A plea to Alabama voters 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 RockefellerOvernight Tech: Trump nominates Dem to FCC | Facebook pulls suspected baseball gunman's pages | Uber board member resigns after sexist comment Trump nominates former FCC Dem for another term Obama to preserve torture report in presidential papers 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.