Tea partier Jim DeMint could block GOP leaders' backup plan to raise the limit
Since the 2010 election cycle, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has had to watch his right flank. Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) has been cultivating a conservative wing among Senate Republicans, and a major storyline in Washington Republican politics has become DeMint's growing influence in the party, both as a parliamentarian and as a campaigner for conservative primary candidates.
The debt limit has again put DeMint at the center of Senate proceedings. He's promised to do everything he can to stop the plan offered by McConnell and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to allow President Obama to raise the debt limit without congressional consent.
If he wanted to, DeMint could bring the U.S. Treasury to the brink of default, if no plan meets his satisfaction. By objecting to a vote and creating a series of procedural impediments, DeMint could stall a debt-limit increase for three weeks, according to one Democratic Senate aide, if the Senate passes a ceiling hike, the House changes it, and the Senate needs to vote again. That's not to say he'd be willing, in the end, to force a federal default.
What will the debt ceiling mean for Senate Republican politics? Do DeMint's protestations indicate a wedge between newly elected conservative senators and the Republican leadership?