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Interview with Senator Jim DeMint

Interview with Senator Jim DeMint

By The Situation Room - December 6, 2012

BLITZER: And I'm joined now by Senator DeMint along with Heritage Foundation founding trustee, the current president -- shall we say the outgoing president -- Edwin Feulner.

Ed, thanks very much for coming in as well.

We're going to talk a little bit about the state of the Heritage Foundation and the state of the Republican Party, but the senator is here, the newsmaker.

You shocked all of us. Why did you do this?

DEMINT: Wolf, after this last election, it's apparent that we need to do more as conservatives to convince Americans that our ideas and our policies are going to make their lives better.

The Heritage Foundation is the premier think tank, research organization. The premier idea group for the conservative movement. This will give me the opportunity to help take our case to the American people and to translate our policies into real ideas.

BLITZER: So you think you could be more influential within the conservative movement as the leader of the Heritage Foundation, as opposed to a United States senator.

DEMINT: There's no question about it.

BLITZER: What does that say about the Senate, though? I thought, being a senator, one of only 100, you had a real -- you know, you had enormous power.

DEMINT: Well, we do. And I think I've had a lot to do with changing the Senate and bringing in some folks who better reflect America to the Republican Party.

But for me, particularly since I spent most of my life doing research, working with ideas and marketing and trying to sell those to people all over the country, this is like coming home, to be able to work with people who are like-minded at Heritage and all over the country.

BLITZER: If Romney would have won, do you think you would have also made the same decision?

DEMINT: I would have thought differently about it, but this, I told Ed four years ago, half-jokingly, that when people asked me to run for president, I said the only president I want to be is president of the Heritage Foundation, because they're about ideas, and they -- their ideas are backed up by solid research.

And Wolf, the thing that breaks my heart is, as Republicans, we're not doing a good job of convincing Americans that we care about every one of them and our policies are going to make our lives better.

BLITZER: The impression is you only care about the rich.

DEMINT: That's the impression. I'm a conservative first, and I believe that, if we do a better job of helping Americans understand what we're trying to do, to showcase every place in the country that our ideas are working at the state level, that that will help those at the federal level who want to carry those policies.

And frankly, if independents and Democrats want to work with us on conservative ideas, I can do that better at Heritage than as a partisan inside.

BLITZER: You've been at Heritage forever, right?

FEULNER: I've been there 35 years.

BLITZER: I didn't realize, based on how powerful he says he's going to be within the conservative movement, do you feel that you've been that powerful in galvanizing everyone out there?

FEULNER: Unquestionably. I mean, we've co-sponsored a presidential debate with you as our moderator.

BLITZER: I remember. It was a great debate.

FEULNER: Great. We are an idea factory. And ideas are the raw materials of what goes on in Washington. And if we can pull together a stronger coalition -- Republican, Democrat, conservative, even some liberals sometimes on the broad issues that face us -- man, and Jim DeMint knows how to do it. He knows the marketing side as well as the issue side. It's going to be an exciting time at Heritage.

BLITZER: It's a big job. It's not just thinking. You've got to raise money. You've got to go out there and speak. You've got a big staff. You've got a lot of work to do.

FUELNER: He does. He's got to administer 250 people. We've got 600,000 members around the country who are going to be really ecstatic when they hear the news of Jim's coming in. It's -- it's an exciting time at Heritage.

BLITZER: Should there be a compromise in order to avoid going over the fiscal cliff? John Boehner is already ready for $800 billion in increased tax revenue. Now, this isn't really raising the marginal tax rate on the wealthy but Calculating deductions, eliminating loopholes. Are you with the speaker of the House on that?

DEMINT: Unfortunately, Wolf, the policies of the President Obama have already taken us over the cliff. If you meet with businesses like I do all the time, they've already pared back their plans and their hiring for next year, anticipating what's going to happen. So we can fix this Christmas Eve, if we want, but we've already hurt the economy and hurt job growth.

BLITZER: Are you with Boehner?

DEMINT: I'm not with Boehner, because this government doesn't need any more money. This country needs less government. We are going to have historic levels of revenue to the government this year, but we've doubled spending in the last ten years.

BLITZER: Everyone's taxes are going to go up at the end of the year if there's no deal. DEMINT: Well, we have already offered to extend current tax rates. That's what we should have done six months ago until we could come to some agreement, some compromise on tax reform.

BLITZER: When you say compromise, where are you ready to compromise as far as taxes are concerned?

DEMINT: How we go about tax reform, there's a lot of room to work together to lower the rates.

BLITZER: Give an example. Give me an example.

DEMINT: I'm not sure where the Democrats are, because they have not offered a plan.

BLITZER: They say, well, their plan is keep the tax rates from 2001, 2003, whatever, make them permanent. The top 2 percent, let them go from 35 percent to 39.6 percent, which is was what it was during the Clinton administration.

DEMINT: It's incredible to me we're even talking about it, because that doesn't solve the problem.

BLITZER: It doesn't solve it. It's a beginning.

DEMINT: It runs the government for five or six days.

BLITZER: It's a beginning. You know, a billion here, a billion there, it winds up being real money.

DEMINT: But the president has known about this so-called cliff for over a year, and he has yet to present a plan that's comprehensive that actually reduces our deficit.

So I'm going to work with anyone who is willing to put a plan on the table, but our party or anyone should not sit down and negotiate with someone who will not put a plan on the table. And the president has not put a serious plan on the table.

BLITZER: Ed, I'd like you to weigh in. We're running out of time. As far as a compromise on the marginal tax rate, 35 percent, going up, let's say 36 or 37 percent, is that acceptable?

FEULNER: No, no, because marginal tax rate increases, if there is any increase in revenue, it just gives them more to play with over on Capitol Hill and more to spend. And when we talk about fairness, when the top 2 percent, $250,000 and above, are already paying 45 percent of total income tax, that's a big question of fairness there, too.

BLITZER: Ed Feulner and Jim DeMint, outgoing Heritage leader and incoming Heritage leader. 

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