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Lisa Murkowski: Jim DeMint's Selfishness Hurt Republicans In Senate

The Huffington Post   First Posted: 11/17/10 12:52 PM ET Updated: 05/25/11 07:15 PM ET

Lisa Murkowski Jim Demint

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) may be experiencing some lasting resentment toward Republican colleagues, as a hard-fought battle in the Frontier State looks likely to end with Murkowski returning to a Senate still not controlled by the GOP. If not for conservatives like Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), Murkowski said Tuesday, this scenario could have been different. The comments mark the latest volley in an ongoing conflict between the two Republicans.

"I think some of the Republicans in the Congress feel pretty strongly that he and his actions potentially cost us the majority by encouraging candidates that ended up not being electable," Murkowski told Politico of DeMint Tuesday. "And I think Delaware is a pretty good example of that, and I think there're some folks that feel that DeMint's actions didn't necessarily help the Republican majority."

Murkowski, who looks poised to win as a write-in candidate after losing the GOP Senate nomination to Republican Joe Miller, continued, questioning where DeMint's allegiances lay: in his quest to cement his position as conservative kingmaker, or with the larger GOP.

"So the real question is, what's his desire?" she said. "Does he want to help the Republican majority, or is he on his own agenda, his own initiative?"

Murkowksi didn't leave Politico in the dark for long, quickly answering her own question: "I think he's out for his own initiative."

Though Murkowski has acknowledged potentially strained tensions between her and DeMint following his PAC's aggressive campaigning efforts for Joe Miller, the South Carolina senator told Politico that he wasn't planning to dwell on the past.

"That's behind us," DeMint said. "If she wins, which it appears she will, I'm going to congratulate her and welcome her back. But I didn't like the idea of a member losing the primary and then running against our nominee. But that's all done now."

The potential animosity between Murkowski and DeMint could grow in the coming weeks, however, as the two are almost certain to find themselves on directly opposing sides of the fiery debate over whether to ban earmarks.

On Tuesday, Murkowski publicly announced that she would oppose measures to prohibit the directing of federal funds to her state's projects, even while many GOP senators are joining DeMint's efforts to enact the ban.

Even if DeMint is willing to forgive Murkowski's hostility, in both her adversarial role against his earmark crusade as well as her direct accusations that he is to blame for the GOP's lack of greater power, it is unlikely that DeMint's conservative following will be so lenient.

In a letter from last week, the site's leader, Richard Viguerie wrote, "We consider such attacks on Senator Jim DeMint an attack on us and all conservatives."

Viguerie continued, saying that badmouthing DeMint would be a good way to get a bounty placed on your Senate seat.

"Conservatives will also work to defeat in Republican primaries those Republicans who retain consultants who criticize or try to undermine Senator DeMint."

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