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DeMint Leads South Carolina Opposition to Debt Bills

Bill Clark/Roll Call
As Congressional leaders searched for votes on debt legislation, the united opposition of South Carolina’s seven Republicans, including Rep. Trey Gowdy (left) and Rep. Tim Scott, complicated efforts.

The five South Carolina House Republicans refused to back Boehner’s debt bill prior to it’s second revision, which included adding a stronger balanced budget amendment component and was referred to by some individuals monitoring the House debate as “Cut, Cap, Balance light.” Graham on Friday told National Review that he was “pleased” with Boehner’s bill, but stopped short of endorsing it. DeMint appears to have been central to his colleagues’ unwavering opposition.

“Sen. DeMint is wildly popular in the state, and is certainly an example to the Reps [sic] of how to stand up to immense pressure,” Spartanburg County Chairwoman LaDonna Ryggs told Roll Call Friday. Ryggs is based in “upstate” South Carolina, arguably the state’s most conservative region.

“It is pretty amazing that all seven of them are standing firm,” Ryggs said. “No other state can boast that, although Boehner may not like the choice of my word ‘boast.’ The Republicans around here are expecting them to hang in there. I am sure it is helping the [House] Republicans that both of their Senators are with them.”

DeMint over the past couple of years has become a folk hero to conservative activists nationwide for his willingness to buck GOP leadership on Capitol Hill and for providing financial and other support to tea-party-favored Senate candidates through his Senate Conservatives Fund political action committee.

That popularity is no more evident than in his home state, where conservative activists and rank-and-file Republican voters alike give DeMint high marks, and his ability to influence the positions taken by individual members of the state’s delegation is considerable. DeMint’s political power extends to South Carolina’s Republican presidential primary.

At the Senator’s behest, several top GOP political operatives have loosely formed the “Keep Your Powder Dry Caucus,” and pledged to remain neutral in the presidential primary until at least after Labor Day weekend. That is when the contenders are set to appear in South Carolina at a candidate forum that DeMint spearheaded. DeMint’s aim is to increase the leverage of his endorsement and power of his endorsement, if he delivers one.

“Sen. DeMint is the gold standard for conservative Republicans. When he says ‘jump’, they respond ‘How high?’” a Republican operative based in Columbia, S.C., said. “He is not just the leading conservative voice in South Carolina, but rivals Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck on the national stage.”

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