DeMint Signals Change in Senate

Sen. Jim DeMint has been renamed chairman of the Senate Republican Steering Committee — the unofficial caucus of Senate conservatives — for the 111th Congress, and he wants the change in Washington to begin in his own party.

“We have a shortage of courage, and we also have a shortage of vision based on our core principles,” DeMint told HUMAN EVENTS. “A few of us need to step up and try to lead and hope that folks will come with us. I believe that most of the Republicans, the large majority, would follow a conservative plan and agenda if we had the leadership to go that way. But we have not had that.”

DeMint says he will return to Washington early and meet with Senators Tom Coburn (R-Ok) and Jeff Sessions (R-Ala) to work on building a consensus within the Republican Caucus and “see where the resistance is coming from.” The plan of reform begins internally with rule changes for the Republican Conference — DeMint wants to remove the current seniority system, which he feels has hurt the Republican Party in the Senate. He also mentioned a two-year moratorium on earmarks.

The next hurdle will be Pelosi’s darling — the lame-duck session she plans to call before the 111th Congress begins in January. It could begin as early as next Monday. Conservatives are concerned about a potential spending spree, and the ability to filibuster in the Senate will be crucial. All eyes — friendly and not — will be on the slim Republican minority in the Senate.

“This will be a good test to see if we can hold our party together on some big issues, particularly the spending issues,” DeMint said. “I think it’s going to tell us a lot about our leadership and what kind of capital, if any, they bring back to our minority status.

Although DeMint wants Republicans to stand up against spending proposals in the lame duck session, he sees that position as a matter of common sense, not partisan agenda.

“We don’t need to make the case here that this is some political point of view or some conservatism against liberalism,” DeMint said. “This is just a matter of common sense, financial understanding that we can’t borrow more money and create more debt as a country.”

DeMint also said Republicans need to be proactive when countering leftist legislation and have their own proposals on the table. He said he wants alternate “freedom” solutions for every socialist solution pushed by the left.

“If we don’t have positive, freedom-oriented solutions on the table when we face this move left by the Democrats, then we’re just going to be naysayers and obstructionists,” DeMint said. “We’re not going to be real leaders.”

Spending proposals may be the first issue Republicans battle when they return to Washington, but it certainly won’t be the last. Other sensitive legislation could include reviving the Fairness Doctrine, which will effectively silence conservative radio talk shows (Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill) who championed the bill, could play a key role in Obama’s administration); the card check bill, which will eliminate secret ballots for union workers; and the Freedom of Choice Act, which will nullify standing restrictions on abortion and was previously backed by now President-elect Obama.

All told, Republicans should have plenty of opportunities to demonstrate leadership in the next several months. And DeMint feels communicating the party’s message to Americans will be easier without Bush in the White House.

“With Obama as president and a strong Democrat majority, what we do — if we do it right and do the right things — should provide a clear contrast,” he said.