South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint is in line to become the Senate’s first tea party committee chairman, a position certain to squeeze him between his brand of unyielding politics and the pressure to compromise in a narrowly divided Congress.
If Republicans win the Senate, DeMint would grab the gavel of the powerful Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, giving him oversight over everything from highway funding, to NASA, to Internet regulation. It’s a position with the power to shape the national agenda over a wide swath of the economy, and DeMint emphatically says he’ll be just as uncompromising with a gavel in his hand as he has been in his seven years as a bomb-throwing backbencher.
Some of his colleagues say that’s a recipe for a gridlocked committee.
“I think he has a decision to make, what he wants his role to be. Does he want to have an impact on legislation that can pass? Or is he going to stop the legislation from ever being good enough to pass?” said outgoing Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, the committee’s top Republican, in an interview. “If he wants to continue to be the strong voice for not passing legislation that has compromise in it, perhaps he would bypass being the chairman and continue to have that warrior role, but not a governing role.”
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This is one place where the Tea Party can be truly dangerous.