DeMint ‘confident’ new GOP senators can work together to push conservative agenda

Paul Conner Executive Editor
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GREENVILLE, S.C. | Sen. Jim DeMint, fresh off a night of victory for himself and mixed results for the candidates he backed, quickly turned his attention to his goals for the 112th Congress, saying banning earmarks, repealing the health care bill and passing a balanced budget amendment are his priorities for 2011.

In an interview with The Daily Caller after his election victory speech, DeMint said he is confident Republicans can work together on a fiscally conservative agenda.

“The country is united – not just Republicans, but also Democrats and independents – around less spending, less borrowing, less debt, less government takeover,” DeMint said. “We have a clear government mandate from the American people, and I think the Democrats do too.”

“We need to be able to work together as a federal government to reduce that debt and government programs that are unnecessary,” he said. “I think we’ll work together well.”

DeMint had kind words for his unlikely Democratic challenger Alvin Greene, who garnered over 280,000 votes and almost 30 percent of the vote.

Tuesday was a night of mixed results for the Senate candidates DeMint backed this summer and fall.

Marco Rubio in Florida and Rand Paul in Kentucky, Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania, three candidates DeMint has call “reenforcements,” all cruised to victory Tuesday night in their Senate races. Christine O’Donnell in Delaware and Sharron Angle in Nevada lost their Senate bids.

One the campaign trail, DeMint has riled party leaders by saying he would rather have a minority of Republican colleagues that mirror conservative principles than a majority of centrist senators.

“I respect anyone who is willing to run for political office, particularly someone who is willing to put some of their life savings into paying the fee,” DeMint told reporters. “I have a lot of appreciation for someone like Alvin Greene.”

Will he work with Democrats? Only on his terms, DeMint said, criticizing President Barack Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in his victory speech.

“In Washington, Democrats are governing with policies that are bad for our economy, bad for our country, and so it’s getting harder and harder to work with them.”

DeMint said he is “content” with the leadership positions he holds and that he hopes to be a “resource” – not necessarily a leader – to the newly elected Republican senators.

“They don’t need me to lead them, and I want to make sure that they know the system well enough so that they are no co-opted,” DeMint told TheDC. “The system will try to give them so much to do that they don’t have time to get anything done. We need to have a team that pulls together to create a critical mass so that we can be true to the agenda that we promised people.”