Interview with Senator Jim DeMint

Interview with Senator Jim DeMint

By John King, USA - July 8, 2011

KING: Set to host another round of high stakes talks on the debt crisis this Sunday evening. It isn't just Democrats putting pressure on Republicans. Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina is pushing his GOP colleagues to get behind what he calls a cut, cap and balance pledge.

And include a balanced budget amendment to the constitution in any possible deal that's generating some pushback from his fellow Republicans. Senator DeMint with us now from South Carolina. His new book "The Great Awakening Two Years That Changed America, Washington and Me" came out just this week.

Senator, I want to get to the debt talks, but I want to talk first about today's very disappointing unemployment report, jobs report, showing still very anemic job growth in the American economy.

Here is one of the things the president says must be done. He says, if you look at the sectors that are hurting most, construction is one of them and the president says Washington can help. Let's listen.


PRESIDENT OBAMA: Right now, there are over a million construction workers out of work after the housing boom went bust, just as a lot of America needs lot of rebuilding. We connect the two by investing in rebuilding our roads and our bridges and our rail ways and our infrastructure.


KING: Is the president right, even as you negotiate with him big spending cuts, maybe changes to Social Security and Medicare, your push for a balanced budget amendment? Is he right that even as that goes on, maybe we need to find some money to put construction workers to work?

SENATOR JIM DEMINT (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I don't want to be disrespectful to the president, but it's pretty clear he does not know how to get people back to work. He spent more on economic stimulus than any other president.

He promised a lot of that was shovel-ready infrastructure work. It didn't turn out like that and what we need to realize right now is the president's policies have made it very difficult and more expensive for businesses to hire people.

I think I know how to create some jobs and I don't think the president has any standing at this point to suggest we should spend more government money to make that happen.

KING: So let's focus on those negotiations. One of the other things the president said today is he acknowledge there's some uncertainty out there in the business community.

I think you would agree with him on that even though you disagree with what he has done. He says part of that uncertainty is that markets are waiting. Businesses are waiting before they invest to see if Washington will get serious about the deficit and the debt.

As the president moves forward on that you are saying you should have a balanced budget amendment. You just made it clear right here saying taxes should be off the table.

Your Republican colleague John McCain went to the floor of the Senate the other day. He said look, my fellow Republicans, we're not going to get it. Forget about a balanced budget amendment and Senator McCain said this.


SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I feel a need to provide my colleagues with some straight talk. It is my view the way to break this gridlock is to agree, is to agree to certain tax increase and closing loopholes, but only in return for an overall reduction of the corporate tax rate.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: Are you open to that?

DEMINT: Well, I've actually introduced a bill like that and so have many Republicans, get rid of all the credits, the loopholes, the subsidies and just have a low flat corporate rate.

KING: Can there be -- can there be a - Senator, forgive me for interrupting, can there also be some tax increases in addition to doing that? He describes a bit of a trade off there.

DEMINT: Well, John, if raising taxes would solve our problems and get people back to work, I would support it, but I know it wouldn't. Particularly what the president is talking about is likely to cost more jobs than it would save.

And Marco Rubio was right yesterday when he said we don't need more taxes, we need more taxpayers. And what the president is suggesting and the surveys show or the economists who have looked at that time could cost us 70,000 jobs.

Just what he is talking about with very little, if any, new revenue so the president is playing politics on the tax increases.

KING: As you know there are some who would dispute your argument on taxes and they would go back to the 1990s and they would make this argument, Senator. They would say George H. W. Bush raised taxes near the end of his administration, probably lost his job because of it. Bill Clinton won the election, came to office, kept a campaign promise.

He cut taxes on the middle class, but he raised them on wealthy Americans and what we got over the next eight years was the biggest economic expansion of our lifetime, 21 million jobs created in that period of time.

So there are some who would say you have no evidence that at least modest tax increases won't create jobs, wouldn't help.

DEMINT: There's a lot of evidence that the economy in the '90s was created by innovation and explosion of technology in the '80s that paid off. But we could argue about that all day, John, but I don't think you are going to find many economists and even the president a few months ago said we can't raise taxes in a down economy.

The economy is worse now than it was then and so, it doesn't make sense for him to come back as part of this negotiation and say, okay we got to raise taxes in order to cut spending. We don't have a revenue problem.

We had historic levels of revenue for the last five years. And next year, we are projecting the highest level of tax revenue in history. What we have is a spending problem, spending has gone up 60 percent in the last eight years in our country.

We need to begin to roll back spending and devolve functions out of the federal level. The only way that we are going to do that is if we force ourselves to balance the budget.

Sometimes six or eight years out, we're not talking about next year. We're just talking about working our way towards a balanced budget and avoiding bankruptcy as a nation.

KING: You made a name for yourself, Senator, the last couple of years with your involvement in conservative cause, particularly the Tea Party. That is the subject of your book here, "The Great Awakening."

I'm holding up the cover here. You talked about two years that changed America, Washington and me. What is your message going forward into 2012 because as you know and write about in the book, you made a lot of enemies within your own party because you challenged the orthodox.

You challenged the establishment. You challenged the leadership. If your leadership cuts a deal with the president that doesn't get you a balanced budget amendment that maybe includes some tax increases.

What will you do as you do in 2010? Will as you did in 2010 look for targets out there including Republican incumbents?

DEMINT: Yes, I had to take on my party but now, I think our party is increasingly united around this fiscal problem and that unites with a lot of Americans. Over 70 percent of Americans don't think we should raise this debt limit and over 70 percent think we should balance our budget.

So that is our focus and I don't think that is hardly a radical thing to say 49 states have to balance their budget every year. It means they have to make tough decisions. It's time we make tough decisions in Washington.

KING: And so, are you confident you won't have to do it again. That you wouldn't have to go out there and target Republicans saying you haven't kept your word.

You haven't kept your bond with the Tea Party, or is that, maybe call it a warning, threat is a strong word. Is that out there for those who might be involved in these negotiations?

DEMINT: Well, Republicans don't need to worry as much about me as they do the voters. And I think voters expect a lot of this new class of Republicans that they sent last November. We need to keep our word and our word was that we were going to billion this budget and we were going to get control of the debt.

So I think that's responsibility and there won't be another point of leverage like we have right now with this debt ceiling for the next year or so. So now is the time and I think it's not an unreasonable request to let the states decide whether or not we should have a balanced budget.

And John, that's an important point. We can pass a constitutional amendment in Congress, but the states still have to ratify it. And after they do, it's five years before it takes effect.

So we have plenty of time to move in an orderly way that doesn't disrupt government services toward a balanced budget. That's my commitment to America and I think more and more congressmen and senators are making that same commitment.

KING: Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina, sir, appreciate your time tonight.

DEMINT: Thanks, John.


John King, USA

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