Feb. 9, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Republicans Take ‘No Comment’ Approach to DeMint

While Sen. Jim DeMint’s internecine warfare may rub his fellow Republicans the wrong way, it appears there is little, if anything, they can do to rein him in.No Senate Republicans would discuss the issue on the record, and the few that would talk explained that most in the party think the best course of action is to ignore the irascible South Carolinian, at least for now.“Jim DeMint isn’t the most effective legislator, so he has to gain power by driving headlines. His Achilles’ heel is everyone saying, ‘no comment,’” a Republican said.Part of the problem, Republicans said, is the simple fact that in the Senate there is little leadership can do institutionally to curb troublesome Members, and the culture of the chamber discourages using even those options that are available. “It’s the same thing with every Senator. There’s nothing you can do to any of them,” a GOP aide said.Republicans’ relationship with DeMint is further muddied by the fact that, while they may not like his constant attacks on them, he is a driving force in an election cycle that will likely see their numbers swell. “It’s sort of annoying ... but if he helps get Members elected, more power to him,” the aide said.Nevertheless, some elements of the party would like to see DeMint punished in some form. For instance, Republicans on and off Capitol Hill recently ­— and quietly — discussed the possibility of taking away his chairmanship of the Senate Republican Steering Committee, a quasi-leadership role that provides DeMint a platform from which to push his conservative crusade.According to numerous Republicans familiar with the issue, the hope had been to recruit Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) to challenge DeMint for the post. Coburn is as conservative as DeMint, which would shield him against attacks from conservative activists and limiting accusations that the GOP was stifling conservative demands.Coburn was also an attractive possibility because unlike DeMint, he has retained good relations with the Conference’s traditional and moderate Republicans. And since Coburn is increasingly seen as the staunchest supporter of Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in the party’s conservative wing, he would likely win broad support from his colleagues.But Coburn spokesman John Hart said the Oklahoman would not challenge DeMint’s control of the committee.“Dr. Coburn strongly supports Sen. DeMint for Steering chairman and hopes to serve with other new Members who will help change Congress’ borrow-and-spend culture,” Hart said.Even if DeMint’s opponents could find another Senator willing to make a bid for Steering, it appears unlikely they would succeed in supplanting him.Although DeMint has long been a supporter of open government and transparency, he is the beneficiary of one of the more secretive bodies in the Senate, Steering’s executive committee.Composed of eight Republican lawmakers ­— who sources said are all extremely conservative and loyal to DeMint — the executive committee keeps their identity secret, even from other members of the GOP Conference. A DeMint spokesman, who declined to comment on concerns within the Conference regarding his boss, would not identify the executive committee members, noting that as an informal organization it is not required to disclose its membership.

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