Don't expect conservative senators to form a bloc in the Senate next year led by Sen. Jim DeMint, the South Carolina Republican said.
DeMint said he didn't have any interest in rounding up the Senate's current conservatives and the crop of potential incoming conservative senators into any formal bloc, whose votes could be key to shaping legislation.
"I’d like to throw that idea into the trashcan," DeMint told the conservative National Review Online. "It’s simply not true. These candidates are leaders in their own right. I’m supporting them, because they’re not running on some consultant’s talking points. They’re running on principle."
Observers had raised the possibility that DeMint, one of the Senate's more conservative members, might lead such a group in the Senate, which might resemble the conservative Republican Study Committee (RSC) led by Rep. Tom Price (Ga.) in the House.
DeMint's built up loyalty from many of the conservative would-be senators who might head to Washington through his Senate Conservatives Fund. His activities have sometimes meant he would cross the party establishment's endorsement of candidates. Among the crop of conservatives who might tend more toward DeMint's camp would be Nevada candidate Sharron Angle, Florida candidate Marco Rubio and Alaska candidate Joe Miller, among others.
Even without a bloc, though, DeMint told NRO that Republican disloyalty on issues like earmarks "will not be tolerated anymore" with a heavier conservative presence — sending a message to colleagues about the direction in which the party might tilt next year.
Voting blocs, formal or informal, don't always pan out the way their creators hope, either. Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) launched a "Moderate Dems Working Group" in May of 2009, but the group has been a virtual non-factor the past two years when it comes to actual Senate votes.
DeMint has been seen as more likely to pursue a spot in the Senate GOP leadership. He has said he has no interest in challenging Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) as GOP leader, and to that end, McConnell confidently proclaimed on Thursday that he'd already secured the votes to remain in that position once GOP senators vote on leadership positions earlier next year.
The South Carolina senator said he was not focusing on any such leadership bid at this point.
“What I’m interested in is turning this country away from its fiscal cliff — and for the first time since Reagan, I think that we have a chance for real action, not just political posturing," he said.