DeMint: Republicans unwilling to defund ObamaCare ‘need to be replaced’

Former Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) on Monday night urged voters to replace any Republican lawmaker unwilling to vote to defund ObamaCare during next month's budget showdown.

DeMint, the president of the Heritage Foundation, dismissed fears that Republicans would be blamed for a government shutdown, as they were in the 1990s.

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“The risk of that is so much less than the risk to our country if we implement ObamaCare, and so I’m not as interested in the political futures of folks who think they might lose a showdown with the president,” DeMint said at a town-hall meeting hosted by Heritage Action, the think tank's political arm, in Fayetteville, Ark., the first stop on a nine-city tour.

DeMint said President Obama believes he has the upper hand in the coming fight.

“I think he knows that Republicans are afraid, and if they are, they need to be replaced,” DeMint told NPR in an interview after the event.

GOP lawmakers in both chambers are floating a plan to block any bill to fund the government if it includes money to roll out the president's healthcare reforms. But such a maneuver could risk a government shutdown, which many in the GOP believe would harm the party and not Obama. Many party leaders in both chambers have declined to sign on to the defunding strategy.

Some fear it is pointless to push through a bill, knowing that it does not have the votes to pass the Senate and is opposed by Obama. DeMint, however, questioned the assumption that the president would not sign the bill.

“Well we don’t know that do we?” he said at the town hall Monday.

DeMint resigned from Congress last year to lead Heritage Foundation. Heritage Action announced a $550,000 ad campaign Monday aimed at 100 House Republicans who have failed to sign on to a letter supporting the defunding strategy.

DeMint is no stranger to Republican infighting. The Senate Conservative Fund — a political action committee he founded but no longer runs — has been active in backing conservative candidates, sometimes in opposition to Republican incumbents.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), one of the leaders of the group championing the strategy in the Senate, will join one leg of the tour in Dallas later this week.