Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Sen. GOPers Admonish 'Counterproductive' Malcontent DeMint: STFU

Manu Raju of POLITICO reports:

South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint last week accused his Senate Republican colleagues of doing “everything” in their power to help Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s write-in campaign against GOP nominee Joe Miller.

And he pounded them in a fundraising solicitation for doing “business as usual,” just as he “thought Republicans in Washington were beginning to get the message.”

Turns out Republicans got his message — they just didn’t like it.

A number of Republican senators told POLITICO Tuesday that DeMint was skewing the GOP conference’s position solidly backing Miller, saying he was intensifying a rift within a party that’s trying to unite following a divisive primary season. And Republican leaders say DeMint’s decision to lay out to his supporters the debate about Murkowski in the closed-door meeting was a clear breach of protocol where senators don’t discuss private sessions between colleagues with outsiders.

“I personally think it’s very counterproductive,” said retiring Sen. Kit Bond of Missouri, scoffing at what he and other GOP senators see as DeMint’s apparent attempts to build his national profile at the expense of his colleagues.

Asked whether DeMint’s message was helpful to the Republican Party, Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison simply said: “No.”

Despite saying his party was united in the final stretch of the campaign season, DeMint’s attack against his colleagues was his second since the primary elections ended earlier this month. His first came after the Delaware Senate primary, when he wrote to supporters that the Washington GOP was “quietly rooting for Christine [O’Donnell] to lose so they can continue to peddle their discredited line that conservatives cannot win.”

DeMint now says he was “perhaps overly aggressive” with his colleagues in his latest fundraising e-mail about the Alaska Senate race, but he defends his decision to talk about the meeting publicly because he said much of the closed-door talk already had been reported by the “Hill rags.”

And he acknowledged in an interview that his tactics “could be” hurting his cause by burning bridges with his GOP colleagues whose support he would need to advance legislation.

DeMint isn’t exactly subtle in his latest fundraising pitch. The subject line reads: “Senate GOP Help the Alaska Party Switcher” —- in response to Senate Republicans’ decision not to demote Murkowski from a leadership position on a Senate committee.

“I would take issue with that,” said South Dakota Sen. John Thune, No. 4 in the GOP hierarchy. He said DeMint’s statements are “overstating what happened. I think the Republican leadership is very much doing everything they can to help the Republican nominee in Alaska.”

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) called DeMint’s pitch a “mistaken idea,” saying there “isn’t one sitting Republican in the Senate that isn’t supporting Joe Miller.”

Bond, an appropriator who has sparred with DeMint, said the South Carolina senator’s characterization was “totally inaccurate” and noted that Republican senators are raising money for Miller this week during his Washington fundraising rounds.

Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander, the GOP conference chairman, said simply that DeMint’s fundraising e-mail “speaks for itself.” But he expressed concerns about the fact that DeMint publicly aired material from a closed-door meeting.

“Our strong tradition in the Republican Conference is to have a free and open exchange and to keep that among ourselves,” Alexander said. “I’m always disappointed when some member of our conference decides not to follow that tradition. It makes it hard for us to be a team.”

In the final weeks of the campaign, Democrats are eager to exploit the divisions between DeMint and the Republican leadership — and did so again Tuesday when DeMint announced that he would object to quick passage of any bill that he and his allies haven’t reviewed.

GOP leaders say DeMint has the right — as does any other senator — to object to passage of legislation by unanimous consent.

But they clearly are irked by the fallout of the Murkowski episode.

Republican leaders convened a special meeting last week to discuss whether to revoke Murkowksi’s position as ranking Republican on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. GOP leaders entered the meeting, believing the caucus would vote to remove her from her position. But a number of Republicans, like Hutchison, said it made little sense to do so, given that she was likely to lose her reelection bid anyway and that there was sparse committee action in the docket.

DeMint and Louisiana Sen. David Vitter made a case for Murkowski to lose her spot on the committee, but most of their colleagues disagreed. Some later said Murkowski probably gained support because it was DeMint who was leading the charge against her.

Emerging from the meeting, DeMint repeatedly declined to tell reporters about what transpired at the meeting other than to say that the party was “united” behind Miller. A day later, he sent out the sharply worded fundraising letter, attacking his colleagues for aiding Murkowski’s bid.

DeMint said in the interview he was “distressed” by the conference’s position, and he said Miller “obviously was shaken” by the decision to keep Murkowski on the panel’s leadership, which Murkowski has since touted in her campaign.

“I know from experience that trying to work within the system for 12 years has not yielded results —and our country is worse off [than] where it was when I got here,” DeMint said Tuesday. “The party is not going to mind what I do as long as I’m not effective.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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