OLATHE, Kan. — Sen. Jim DeMint said Friday that after the November midterm elections he plans to force the GOP Conference to take a vote on adopting an earmark moratorium, a move that House Republicans have already made.
The South Carolina Republican made the comment during a campaign stop to stump for Rep. Jerry Moran, one of several Senate candidates he has endorsed in a effort to elect more conservatives in his same mold. Moran is battling fellow Rep. Todd Tiahrt in the Aug. 3 Kansas Republican primary, and public polls have shown Moran ahead.
“Once we get through this election, I’m going to force a vote on a moratorium on earmarks,” DeMint told the crowd of about 150 who packed the American Legion Post 153 in this Kansas City suburb for a midday Moran town hall.
DeMint’s stop here came after he visited Colorado on Thursday to campaign for Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck at a picnic in Denver. The Senator told the crowd that after November he hopes to be joined by more conservatives in the Senate such as Moran, Buck, former Florida Speaker Marco Rubio, former Pennsylvania Rep. Pat Toomey and Utah attorney Mike Lee.
Lee won a the Republican primary last month and is all but assured of becoming the state’s junior Senator next year. DeMint backed Lee after Sen. Bob Bennett was defeated at the May GOP nominating convention. In his remarks Friday, DeMint used Bennett as an example of an appropriator who lost this cycle because of the culture of overspending that he argues has plagued Washington, D.C., and both parties.
Bennett has also been a top lieutenant to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), and one questioner here told DeMint that he wants to see changes in the party starting at the top, naming McConnell as part of the problem.
“I think you’ll see some changes in the Republican leadership in Washington” after the elections, DeMint said.
The Senator said that the party’s leaders have “tried in some ways to crush me.” But he said his efforts are only reinforced when he makes trips around the county and finds strong support wherever he goes. Several of the conservatives DeMint has backed in GOP primaries have been running against candidates preferred by party leaders.
“What they’ve found is while they can beat me in Washington, they can’t beat me all across the county,” he said.
One attendee chided DeMint for not fighting even harder and suggested that Republicans should have kept the Senate in session instead of breaking for the July Fourth recess, which gave President Barack Obama the opportunity to make recess appointments.
“I don’t have enough people to keep the floor open,” DeMint said. “But after November we’re going to have those conservatives.”
Still, DeMint said that even with the current number of conservatives in the Senate, “we probably should go down fighting more often.”
DeMint’s first question was from a Missouri resident wearing a bright red Chuck Purgason for Senate T-shirt. He asked whether the Senator was taking a position in the Show Me State’s Republican primary, where Rep. Roy Blunt is the establishment-backed candidate and the prohibitive frontrunner over Purgason, a conservative state Senator. DeMint punted on taking a side in the contest.
“I’m going to focus on Kansas today and not Missouri,” he said.