In late 2009, as Americans across the country were still grappling with the effects of the Great Recession, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) advocated reviving President George W. Bush’s plan to privatize Social Security, blasting the current structure of Social Security as “socialistic.” He has described Social Security as a “failed program,” and thinks Medicare is unconstitutional.
So, of course, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is considering assigning DeMint to fill an open spot on the Senate Finance Committee, which oversees the very programs DeMint believes violate the Constitution:
In a sign of the growing power of conservatives within the Senate Republican Conference, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) held a rare meeting with Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) on Monday evening. The topic: an opening on the most powerful committee in the Senate, the Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over taxes, trade, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
“It was a very positive meeting,” DeMint said. “It did come up and I expressed an interest — it’s where all the issues I came to work on in Congress are,” DeMint said.
As Ian Milhiser has noted, the conservative notion that Medicare is unconstitutional is absurd, as the Constitution explicitly provides Congress the power “to lay and collect taxes” and to “provide for the…general welfare of the United States.” DeMint has also turned to fringe right-wing constitutional theory in an attempt to find justification for his position that the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional.
The upshot is that Senate Republicans are considering placing DeMint on a committee overseeing programs that he believes violate the Constitution or that he wants to privatize and turn over to the private sector. The ultra-conservative, anti-tax group Club for Growth is pushing for DeMint to be seated on the Finance Committee so that he can influence corporate tax reform.