Tea Party leader DeMint says new book is "recruitment tool"
CHARLESTON, South Carolina
CHARLESTON, South Carolina (Reuters) - Tea party kingmaker Senator Jim DeMint said he will use a new book about his lonely campaign to cut government spending and reduce the size of government as a tool to recruit more Americans to his cause.
"The Great American Awakening: Two Years That Changed America, Washington, and Me," is an effort to show Americans that they can make a difference in Washington, DeMint said in a telephone interview with Reuters on Thursday.
The Tea Party and the freshmen Republicans it swept into office last fall have changed the Republican Party by forcing a showdown over raising the national debt ceiling, said DeMint, a Republican from South Carolina.
In his book, published July 4, DeMint slams his own party for overspending and for compromising with Democrats. He writes that he woke up on the morning after to the election of (president) Barack Obama "ready to do battle -- not with Democrats, but with Republicans."
He recalls that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told him, "Jim, you can't change the Senate."
"Now if you look at what's going on in the Senate," DeMint said on Thursday, "the leaders of those who are pushing for a balanced budget amendment and caps on spending, they're Pat Toomey and Mike Lee and Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Ron Johnson. These are folks that the Senate Conservatives Fund, my PAC, helped raise money for and get elected."
Freshmen senators Toomey from Pennsylvania, Lee from Utah, Paul from Kentucky, Rubio from Florida and Johnson from Wisconsin were swept into office by the Republican victory in the 2010 midterm elections.
DeMint said his "Senate Conservative Fund" hopes to raise $15 million to help elect five to 10 more strong conservatives to the Senate.
"Even when you had a Republican president and a Republican majority, the old Senate club has kept us from doing anything."
DeMint was widely criticized by Republicans who said they would have gained more congressional seats in 2010 if he had not endorsed Tea Party candidates who ultimately lost.
He has angered the White House and some in his own party this year by saying that he does not believe the U.S. will default on its debt even if Republicans and Democrats are unable to reach an agreement to raise the limit on how much money the federal government can borrow.
"When I tried to change the seniority rules here, when I tried to get rid of earmarks, when I decided to unelect a few Republicans and bring some new ones in, then I wasn't very popular," DeMint said Thursday. "A few years ago, you would have probably never heard from me again."
Earmarks are provisions attached to bills that must be passed that spend money on pet projects of individual lawmakers. They are blamed by DeMint and other conservatives for helping increase the budget deficit.
The book is aimed at voters, he said. "But I'd love for candidates to read it and get a different perspective of what the tea parties really are, because the media generally doesn't understand the composition. It's certainly not a Republican-inspired group. Republicans are lucky if they ever get invited to speak. These are just people who are fed up with politics."
(Editing by Greg McCune)
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