South Carolina Republican Sen. Jim DeMint unexpectedly quit Congress this winter, saying essentially that he could better advance the conservative cause as president of the Heritage Foundation think tank than in Congress.
Roughly eight months later, DeMint has no doubt pressed Congress, and House Republicans in particular, to take a conservative stance on such issues as the Farm Bill and President Obama’s health care law.
Heritage and DeMint won at least a partial victory on the recent Farm Bill vote, getting the House to split funding for food stamps from the rest of the bill but saying more reform is needed on the billions being spent on crop subsidies and other programs.
And votes of sequestration, the debt limit and immigration are also on the near horizon.
But DeMint’s biggest challenges to date appears to lie in the weeks ahead when Congress returns in two weeks to vote on a temporary spending bill, which DeMint hopes will not include money for ObamaCare.
“We know that ObamaCare is unfair,” DeMint has said repeatedly over the past few months, as dismantling the law has emerged as a primary focus. “It’s unaffordable, unworkable and very unpopular. And this might be our last chance to stop it. … This is an urgent matter.”
Democrats and Republicans will try to agree before Oct. 1 on the temporary spending bill that funds federal agencies, with the possibility of a government shutdown should the sides fail to reach a deal.
DeMint is trying to put the specter of a shutdown on Obama, saying the president will be to blame should he insist on keeping his “flawed law” on the negotiating table.
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker wants to give people in his state a way around ObamaCare’s problems.
He is floating a proposal that would still channel federal subsidies to Wisconsin’s poor and uninsured, but his plan would allow them to purchase coverage directly from the insurer and sidestep the on-line “exchange” created by the Affordable Care Act.
His idea is getting support, even in the bitterly divided Wisconsin state house. Six Democrats crossed party lines and backed his proposal in the assembly, sending it over to the Senate with a healthy majority.