In the wake of this months electoral defeats, Sen. Jim DeMint (S.C.) staked out an aggressive and even antagonistic position on where he thought his Republican Party should go.
He immediately sought a series of changes to how Senate Republicans operate, called for a return to strict conservative values and began issuing not-so-veiled threats to fellow Senators who didnt join his crusade.
But instead of igniting a conservative revolution, DeMint has suddenly found himself on the outside looking in following what GOP sources said was an angry rebuke of his reform demands from party elders during Tuesdays closed-door Conference meeting.
Publicly, Senate Republicans sought to downplay the tensions between DeMint and much of his Conference.
Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) one of several Members who spoke out against DeMints proposed changes to the Conferences leadership rules said Thursday that while theres no feud here, Republicans in the Senate feel that now is a time for unity, not for taking steps that could undermine leadership.
I think theres a realization within the ranks of the Republican Party that now Republicans are an endangered species, and that we should speak with one voice, Roberts said. To call for wholesale changes at a time like this that would limit the ability of the leaders to lead was really ill-timed.
DeMint came into Tuesdays Conference during which leaders for the 111th Congress were tapped hoping to win support for a series of interparty rules changes. Among them were proposals to limit the tenure of top party leaders, committee chairmen and ranking members, to limit the time served on the powerful Appropriations Committee and to eliminate the seniority-based committee assignment process.
DeMint had also planned to offer a motion at the meeting to expel embattled Sen. Ted Stevens (Alaska) from the GOP ranks, but pulled that proposal minutes before amid pressure from his fellow Senators.
Senators and aides acknowledged that DeMints ideas reignited long-standing tensions with the GOP Conference and his fellow Senators, who often have tried to quiet his flame-throwing ways.
One lawmaker, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that if DeMint is further into the wilderness these days, it is the result of his own ill-advised actions. I think its largely self-inflicted, the Senator said.
When asked how DeMint could repair some of the apparent damage, the lawmaker declined to comment. I dont give Jim DeMint advice.
For his part, DeMint who clearly follows his own path sees a unified party. His spokesman Wesley Denton said: Sen. DeMint and the Steering Committee are moving forward to unite Americans around the conservative principles we all share. The next year will present many challenges and were excited about working together with all Republicans to present a positive agenda for Americas future.
Several Senate Republicans said they have tired of DeMints repeated use of the Senates rules to slow up legislation or try to keep the chamber in session, particularly when it was certain his efforts would result in no changes to a bill.