Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), the defacto leader of the tea party-fueled movement to ban earmarking by Republican Senators in the next Congress, says he’s got the votes to pass a moratorium when the incoming caucus meets for the first time tomorrow.
“We probably have the edge by a vote or two,” DeMint told reporters on a conference call sponsored by the Heritage Foundation this morning. He credited the incoming freshman class — which includes vehement anti-earmarkers like Mike Lee (UT) and Rand Paul (KY) — with providing the extra votes needed to pass a moratorium over the wishes of caucus leader Mitch McConnell.
DeMint said nothing is set in stone, and suggested that some Senators who supported an earmark ban in the past could take advantage of the secret ballot tomorrow to vote against a moratorium. If DeMint and his allies were to win, it would be seen as a significant victory for the tea party and a defeat for McConnell, who has reportedly lobbied against the moratorium in private conversations with Republican Senators for several weeks now.
DeMint was ready to say he had the upper hand in the fight, which has been closely-watched by tea partiers and anti-establishment types who see the moratorium as an important step toward taking their country back as they promised on the campaign trail.
“I think we’re going to have the votes to win it,” DeMint said.
He was joined on the call by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), who wasn’t ready to make a prediction about the vote, but has become as vocal an opponent of earmarking as DeMint lately, recently publishing a scathing indictment of the practice — and the Senators that practice it — in the National Review.
“If the Senate GOP wants to send a signal that they don’t get it and are not listening they can reject an earmark moratorium,” he wrote.
Asked today if his colleagues in the Senate would heed his warning and vote in the moratorium tomorrow, Coburn said, “I have no idea.”