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Player of the Week: Jim DeMint

The most oft-used cliche about the Senate is that it's the "World's Greatest Deliberative Body." Leaving aside the question about whether it really is great, the chamber certainly is deliberative, and Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) has busied himself in recent days making it even more so.

DeMint was a key obstacle to passage of the housing rescue package that finally passed late last week, with DeMint saying:
"Like a fish in the sun, the stink from this bill gets worse every day." He is vowing to make trouble again when the measure comes back to the Senate with a bailout for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac tacked on. "Congress should not use this 'crisis' to rush the government into the mortgage business," DeMint said earlier this week. And he is arguing that any such bailout bill should include a prohibition on lobbying by the two mortgage giants.

DeMint was also the primary reason why it took so long to get global AIDS relief passed by the chamber. While the measure finally did get through this week, DeMint said he was disappointed that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid "decided to ram this $50 billion in deficit spending for foreign aid through the Senate without a full and open debate." Two weeks ago, DeMint held up a Federal Aviation Administration authorization bill because he objected to a provision injecting $6 billion into the highway trust fund. The bill ended up passing after the offending provision was taken out. And DeMint has played a key role in holding up a host of other measures this Congress, including immigration and lobbying reform bills.

But his act may be wearing a bit thin. Roll Call had a story Tuesday (sub req'd) quoting a cavalcade of Senators, mostly Republicans, complaining about DeMint's tactics. Specifically, they were upset that the South Carolinian forced a procedural vote on the AIDS package and then didn't show up for the tally when it happened last Friday. DeMint blamed Reid for scheduling the measure when he knew DeMint would be out of town, but few of DeMint's colleagues seemed sympathetic.

"The fact that he wasn't here for that vote on Friday really hurt him with his colleagues," Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio) told the paper. "It was inappropriate for him to do what he did unless he's there to vote on it."

DeMint even took some time to make a bit of presidential campaign mischief this week. The South Carolinian is the top Repubican on the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on European Affairs, which Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) chairs. In advance of the Democratic nominee's trip to Europe and the Middle East, DeMint wrote to Obama requesting that the subcommittee hold hearings on NATO operations in Afghanistan, pointing out that the panel has not held any such hearings in recent years. Foreign Relations Chairman Joe Biden (D-Del.) wrote back to DeMint, pointing out that Afghanistan issues are typically handled at the full committee, not subcommittee, level.

Of course, DeMint is used to irritating people. The Senate may be a generally collegial body, but it also has rules that allow any one senator to wreak havoc on the agenda and block just about any bill. DeMint and fellow conservative Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) have not been shy about utilizing those rules to halt action on scores of bills since both were elected to the Senate in 2004.

There is a distinct school of thought within the Republican Party that the reason the GOP did so poorly in the 2006 elections, and appears headed for another beating in 2008, is that the party stopped adhering to its core conservative principles: It spent too much money, gobbled up too many earmarks and didn't cut taxes enough, and so the base voters stayed home or even voted for some Democrats. Another wing of the party argues that Republicans are in dire straits because they haven't done enough to appeal to the middle, and that they need to reach out to centrists and disaffected Democrats to return to power.

DeMint is firmly in, and a hero of, the first camp. He is perfectly willing to be accused of blocking even popular bills (like the housing and AIDS measures) if he believes he can extract concessions that will spend less money or minimize government interference in the market. DeMint toed the same line during his six years in the House, where he was similarly outspoken on behalf of conservative and reformist causes but was much less effective because that chamber's rules don't allow one member to muck up the works.

Republican voters are unhappy with their party's congressional caucuses right now. Do they want more Jim DeMints, and more aggressive stands to trim government spending? Or do they want less obstruction, and more centrist solutions on issues like energy and housing? To DeMint, the answer to that question is pretty clear, even if it may not be to some of his fellow senators.

By Ben Pershing  |  July 18, 2008; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Player of the Week  
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Next: The Week Ahead: Endgame on Housing Bill


I wish we has about 48 more like him in the Senate. We could pretty well run the Senate if the other rinos would be more like jim that voinovich or susan collins. They make me sick to my stomach, the way they pander to the democrats, in order to get ear marks for their states. I am going to write both of my Senators, and tell them if they want my vote, they had better wake up and smell the stink in the Senate, and that stink is Harry Reid and Charles Schumer. I also would throw Mr Durbin in that mix, because if there was ever a sob on the senate, he is it.!

Posted by: Elmerck | July 18, 2008 12:17 PM | Report abuse

He's standing on the lifeboat deck of the Titanic screaming "man the pumps!!!!". Funny, when his party HAD power, they couldn't borrow money fast enough for all the corporate welfare they promised their contributors. Now that they are a political footnote, it's scandalous, SCANDALOUS I TELL YOU!!!!!...Wasn't scandalous when the Republicans were doing it though, it was "freedoms on the march" or "French fries aren't free!!!" (Wait a minute, I think that's freedom fries aren't free, but then again the ketchup is complementary).
Unfortunately for the Republicans, most people remember (all but 28% at last count).

Posted by: dijetlo | July 18, 2008 12:59 PM | Report abuse

For uncensored news please bookmark:

GOP cyber-security expert suggests Diebold tampered with 2002 election

by Larisa Alexandrovna and Muriel Kane

Global Research, July 18, 2008
The Raw Story

A leading cyber-security expert and former adviser to Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) says he has fresh evidence regarding election fraud on Diebold electronic voting machines during the 2002 Georgia gubernatorial and senatorial elections.

Stephen Spoonamore is the founder and until recently the CEO of Cybrinth LLC, an information technology policy and security firm that serves Fortune 100 companies. At a little noticed press conference in Columbus, Ohio Thursday, he discussed his investigation of a computer patch that was applied to Diebold Election Systems voting machines in Georgia right before that state's November 2002 election.

Spoonamore is one of the most prominent cyber-security experts in the country. He has appeared on CNN's Lou Dobbs and ABC's World News Tonight, and has security clearances from his work with the intelligence community and other government agencies, as well as the Department of Defense, and is one of the world's leading authorities on hacking and cyber-espionage.

In 1995, Spoonamore received a civilian citation for his work with the Department of Defense. He was again recognized for his contributions in 2004 by the Department of Homeland Security. Spoonamore is also a registered Republican and until recently was advising the McCain campaign.

Spoonamore received the Diebold patch from a whistleblower close to the office of Cathy Cox, Georgia's then-Secretary of State. In discussions with RAW STORY, the whistleblower -- who wishes to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation -- said that he became suspicious of Diebold's actions in Georgia for two reasons. The first red flag went up when the computer patch was installed in person by Diebold CEO Bob Urosevich, who flew in from Texas and applied it in just two counties, DeKalb and Fulton, both Democratic strongholds. The source states that Cox was not privy to these changes until after the election and that she became particularly concerned over the patch being installed in just those two counties.

The whistleblower said another flag went up when it became apparent that the patch installed by Urosevich had failed to fix a problem with the computer clock, which employees from Diebold and the Georgia Secretary of State's office had been told the patch was designed specifically to address.

Some critics of electronic voting raised questions about the 2002 Georgia race even at the time. Incumbent Democratic Sen. Max Cleland, who was five percentage points ahead of Republican challenger Saxby Chambliss in polls taken a week before the vote, lost 53% to 46%. Incumbent Democratic Governor Roy Barnes, who led challenger Sonny Perdue in the polls by eleven points, lost 51% to 46%. However, because the Diebold machines used throughout the state provided no paper trail, it was impossible to ask for a recount in either case.

Concerned by the electoral outcome, the whistleblower approached Spoonamore because of his qualifications and asked him to examine the Diebold patch.

McCain adviser reported patch to Justice Department

The Ohio press conference was organized by Cliff Arnebeck and three other attorneys, who had filed a challenge to the results of that the 2004 presidential election in Ohio in December, 2004. That challenge was withdrawn, but in August 2006 Arnebeck filed a new case, King Lincoln Bronzeville Neighborhood Association v. Blackwell, alleging civil rights violations in the 2004 voting. The case was stayed in 2007. On Thursday, Arnebeck filed a motion to remove the stay and allow fresh investigation.

Individuals close to Arnebeck's office said Spoonamore confirmed that the patch included nothing to repair a clock problem. Instead, he identified two parallel programs, both having the full software code and even the same audio instructions for the deaf. Spoonamore said he could not understand the need for a second copy of the exact same program -- and without access to the machine for which the patch was designed, he could not learn more. Instead, he took the evidence to the Cyber-Security Division of the Department of Justice and reported the series of events to authorities. The Justice Department has not yet acted on his report.

Allegations surrounding Ohio in 2004

At the Ohio press conference yesterday, the former McCain adviser said Michael Connell, of the Republican Internet development firm New Media Communications, had designed a system that made possible the real-time "tuning" of election tabulators once Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell had outsourced the hosting of vote counting on the same server which hosted GOP campaign IT systems. He said he didn't believe Connell was behind the alleged fraud, but that he should be considered a key witness.

Spoonamore also confirmed he's working with Connell on overseas election issues and that Connell is now working as John McCain's IT developer.

Connell has a long history with the Republican Party's IT infrastructure. In 2001, for example, he set up for then House Majority Whip Tom DeLay. He also helped built, as well as the Ohio GOP site Spoonamore referenced.

Sources close to Spoonamore said he was very concerned that he would lose his contracts as a result of coming forward and would take a "large financial hit." These sources added that, despite his concerns, Spoonamore felt obligated to reveal what he knows to the public. "He felt he had no choice as an American citizen but to come forward, and he also knows the likely consequences of him doing so," one source said.

An audio file of the press conference is available here.

Posted by: che | July 19, 2008 6:21 AM | Report abuse

DeMint is typical of the losers of the failed Republican party and it's so-called 'conservative' policies.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 20, 2008 3:04 PM | Report abuse

As a resident of South Carolina, Senator Jim DeMint is an embarrasment. Though Linsay Graham is a close second. And what is Graham's story? 53 and a "bachelor". Bless his heart. PLEEEEZE.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 20, 2008 6:52 PM | Report abuse

I wish more Republicans were actually conservative so I could vote Republican again. If DeMint was the Republican nominee for president, I could vote for him. I would never vote for Mccain! Mccain wanted amnesty for over 12 million illegals! If the republicans want to look like amnesty supporters and have mccain as their nominee, i'll vote democrat just so we real conservatives can take the party back in future elections. I would rather have a conservative candidate that loses and election, rather than a liberal on immigration like mccain that might win the election, either way, conservatives lose!

Posted by: TRBundro1277 | July 22, 2008 7:08 PM | Report abuse

I'm a native of South Carolina, currently live here and had previously voted for Senator Jim DeMint. After following his recent antics in the Senate I'm embarrassed (yet again) to be from South Carolina where we seem to raise "demented politicians" and gullible people who put them into office. In case of Jim DeMint and people who vote for him, it's becoming obvious to the rest of us here that both behave more like simpletons than they do Republicans. This is Senator DeMints' first term as our Senator. In thinking about his upcoming bid for reelection it's sort of as we say about college football down here, "just wait till next year"...

Posted by: Anonymous | July 27, 2008 11:13 AM | Report abuse

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