Republicans’ relationship with DeMint is further muddied by the fact that, while they may not like his constant attacks on them, he is a driving force in an election cycle that will likely see their numbers swell. “It’s sort of annoying … but if he helps get Members elected, more power to him,” the aide said.
Nevertheless, some elements of the party would like to see DeMint punished in some form. For instance, Republicans on and off Capitol Hill recently — and quietly — discussed the possibility of taking away his chairmanship of the Senate Republican Steering Committee, a quasi-leadership role that provides DeMint a platform from which to push his conservative crusade.
According to numerous Republicans familiar with the issue, the hope had been to recruit Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) to challenge DeMint for the post. Coburn is as conservative as DeMint, which would shield him against attacks from conservative activists and limiting accusations that the GOP was stifling conservative demands.
Coburn was also an attractive possibility because unlike DeMint, he has retained good relations with the Conference’s traditional and moderate Republicans. And since Coburn is increasingly seen as the staunchest supporter of Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in the party’s conservative wing, he would likely win broad support from his colleagues.
But Coburn spokesman John Hart said the Oklahoman would not challenge DeMint’s control of the committee.