Former South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint on Thursday warned congressional Republicans to keep their pledges to enact a conservative agenda, despite mounting political pressure some are already facing over issues like repealing the Affordable Care Act.
“Fellow conservatives, this is our time,” said DeMint, who is now the president of the conservative Heritage Foundation, during an appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference here outside of Washington, D.C.
“We cannot allow our representatives in Washington to squander this opportunity and again fall short on promises we’ve made to the American people,” he said. “We cannot allow the left, the media and squeamish Republicans to tell us that policies that would make life better for every American are impossible.
“Obamacare must be repealed right now,” he said.
Over the last several weeks, Republican lawmakers have faced increasingly angry constituents at town halls, many of whom have expressed concerns about GOP proposals to roll back the health care law and demanded answers about what would replace it. DeMint waved off those questioners, as well as the concerns of some operatives and lawmakers that pushing ahead on hot-button issues too quickly would be politically perilous.
Obamacare must be repealed right now.
Former Sen. Jim DeMint
“All the guardians of the swamp are already whispering in the ears of Republicans in Congress, the White House, telling them not to keep their promises,” he said. “I’ve been in a lot of Republican meetings, I know what lobbyists, consultants, pollsters are saying: They say Republicans should not overreach, that politics is the art of the possible.”
DeMint, who during his time in Congress clashed with plenty of his fellow Republicans over how far conservatives could go, dismissed that thinking as merely self-interested protection of the status quo.
Many Republicans campaigned on promises to repeal the Affordable Care Act, balance the budget and build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, and with majorities in both chambers of Congress and control of the White House, the thinking among some conservative leaders and activists goes, this is an opportunity to make good. And whether they move ahead, DeMint suggested, is not guaranteed.
DeMint also took several swipes at the Export-Import Bank, which has a significant customer in Boeing and its manufacturing presence in South Carolina. It’s not at all clear Trump shares those critical views, and there have in fact been signs of openness to the bank from the White House.
“Folks, let’s not forget, there are no permanent victories here in Washington,” DeMint told the activists gathered here. “All we won last November was a chance to get out of the stands and onto the field. Now the real fight begins.”
“Washington,” he added, “is extremely good at lowering expectations.”