South Carolina Republican Sen. Jim DeMint unexpectedly quit Congress this winter, saying essentially that he could better advance the conservative cause as president of the Heritage Foundation think tank than in Congress.
Roughly eight months later, DeMint has no doubt pressed Congress, and House Republicans in particular, to take a conservative stance on such issues as the Farm Bill and President Obama’s health care law.
Heritage and DeMint won at least a partial victory on the recent Farm Bill vote, getting the House to split funding for food stamps from the rest of the bill but saying more reform is needed on the billions being spent on crop subsidies and other programs. And votes of sequestration, the debt limit and immigration are also on the near horizon.
But DeMint’s biggest challenges to date appears to lie in the weeks ahead when Congress returns in two weeks to vote on a temporary spending bill, which DeMint hopes will not include money for ObamaCare.
“We know that ObamaCare is unfair,” DeMint has said repeatedly over the past few months, as dismantling the law has emerged as a primary focus. “It’s unaffordable, unworkable and very unpopular. And this might be our last chance to stop it. … This is an urgent matter.”
DeMint is trying to put the specter of a shutdown on Obama, saying the president will be to blame should he insist on keeping his “flawed law” on the negotiating table.
Others in the Tea Party movement such as Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul have said the GOP — by controlling one-third of government with the House majority – has an obligation to challenge the bill, then hope for a House-Senate compromise.
However, the Democrat-controlled Senate will likely never agree to the so-called “defunding” of ObamaCare, nor would the president sign such an agreement, which would give DeMint little more than a symbolic victory.
“It’s an uphill battle unless the people in the country speak up,” DeMint acknowledged to Fox News on Friday, at about the midway point of Heritage Action for American’s nine-city Defund ObamaCare Town Hall Tour.