Tea party leader Senator Jim DeMint joked about forcing John Boehner from the House, after DeMint shockingly quit the Senate on Thursday.
DeMint had been attacking Boehner, the Speaker of the House, on Tuesday, but now DeMint will leave his influential Senate post to run the conservative Heritage Foundation.
DeMint went on Rush Limbaugh’s radio show on Thursday afternoon, to explain his decision and take another shot at Boehner.
Limbaugh asked DeMint if Boehner had forced him out of office. “It might work a little bit the other way, Rush,” DeMint replied.
DeMint said his new job would be part of an effort to better market the Republican party to more people.
“It’s been an honor to serve the people of South Carolina in the United States Senate for the past eight years, but now it’s time for me to pass the torch to someone else and take on a new role in the fight for America’s future,” he said in a statement on Thursday morning.
During the 2010 election, DeMint helped tea party candidates get elected, and during the fiscal cliff debates, he’s been a very vocal advocate of a hardline policy of no new tax revenues, in any form, in a compromise bill.
But in the last election cycle, DeMint played a less-vocal role, especially when it came to criticizing less-conservative GOP candidates.
His move to the Washington-based think tank will position DeMint to advocate for conservative issues in upcoming elections.
“This is an urgent time,” DeMint told The Wall Street Journal in an interview on Thursday, “because we saw in the last election we were not able to communicate conservative ideas that win elections.”
On Tuesday, DeMint ripped Boehner in a public statement that many observers saw as a sign of a deep split in the Republican leadership over the fiscal cliff.
“Speaker Boehner’s $800 billion tax hike will destroy American jobs and allow politicians in Washington to spend even more, while not reducing our $16 trillion debt by a single penny,” DeMint said, in terse language usually reserved for Democrats.
Boehner is involved in tough negotiations with President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats over the fiscal cliff, a collection of legally mandated tax hikes and spending cuts that go into effect in January.
The House speaker has proposed $800 billion in new tax revenue, from savings on loopholes and deductions, as an olive branch to the Democrats. Boehner’s price would be steep spending cuts to social and entitlement programs.
Without DeMint within the Senate, Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have one less obstruction in their talks with the Democrats.
However, McConnell hasn’t publicly supported Boehner’s proposal, and many conservatives don’t approve any increase in tax revenues.
And DeMint isn’t leaving the Senate until January.
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