DeMint: Conservatives don't feel well-represented in D.C.

Jim DeMint, the former firebrand conservative senator and current president of the Heritage Foundation, says people who share his ideology “don’t feel like we are well represented in Washington right now.”

His comments, on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” come just after Congressional Republicans capitulated to Democrats and voted to increase the U.S. borrowing authority without asking for specific spending cuts or policy concession in exchange. Although the debt limit vote drew criticism from some conservatives, DeMint shied away from blaming or challenging House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, who first led House Republicans down that path.

“It was a defining vote this week. I think it showed that all the Democrats in Congress were completely willing to give the president a blank check to borrow whatever he wanted. Most of the Republicans weren't. But the Republican leadership has figured out, Bob: Either they give the president all the money and debt he wants or he’s going to close the government down and blame it on them. So I think they did what they thought was only thing they could do,” DeMint said.

Lifting the U.S. debt ceiling in fact allows additional borrowing for the U.S. to pay off bills that were incurred when Congress authorized the spending.

DeMint defended Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who sought a 60-vote threshold for the debt limit vote, which forced many of his Republican colleagues to authorize a vote on the measure before ultimately voting against it. DeMint said Cruz was simply following the normal rules, but the move angered many of his colleagues.

 Cruz, “made people really unhappy, including [Senate Minority Leader] Mitch McConnell who thinks that Cruz is literally the most selfish senator he’s ever seen in his years there,” said journalist Bob Woodward, who appeared after DeMint.

DeMint said the GOP’s internal divisions between moderate and conservative lawmakers are nothing new, noting that former President Ronald Reagan was “an insurgent” who shook up the party.

“I will say that a lot of us as conservatives don’t feel like we are well represented in Washington right now. And I think a lot of Americans, regardless of political labels, feel the same way. I hear it all over the country and I think that's why you see a stirring in the country,” DeMint said. “Frankly people are less interested in the label of Republican and Democrat and they're tired of that but they will unite around some principles that will give us a stronger economy, a strong society, a strong America. And those are the things we want to talk about. America's not nearly as divided as it looks like they are in Washington.”

In terms of his own work shaping the party from outside of the Capitol, DeMint said he was no longer involved with groups like the Senate Conservatives Fund, which aims to oust more moderate lawmakers.

“At the Heritage Foundation, our job is to unite the country around a set of ideas. So we're less involved with, really, trying to cram anything down the throats of congressman and senators,” he said. The group is “on a campaign” to promote conservative ideals.

  • Rebecca Kaplan

    Rebecca Kaplan is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.

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