S.C. Sen. tells Candy Crowley he can’t back candidate who won’t sign his “cut, cap, and balance” pledge on federal budget.
Full Transcript of CNN’s “State of the Union”
CANDY CROWLEY, ANCHOR, “STATE OF THE UNION WITH CANDY CROWLEY”: Joining me now Republican Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina. Senator, let’s talk, right off the bat, about this pledge that you have signed along with other members of the Senate, the US Congress, and other groups– it’s called “Cut, cap, and balance.” So let me run through cut—it’s calling—you’re going to oppose the debt ceiling–
SEN. JIM DEMINT (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Right.
CROWLEY: –until there are substantial spending cuts that would take effect in 2012. Define substantial.
DEMINT: Well, we are leaving that open so we can negotiate. But, we need to do something that significantly lowers spending in the short term. The second point, cap spending, is to put some controls on spending over the long term and guide it towards a balanced budget which is the ultimate goal—is to pass a balanced budget amendment, allow states to ratify it and then five years after it’s ratified it takes effect. And then, like 49 states, every year we have to make those hard decisions and balance the budget. Candy, I’m convinced if we don’t have that requirement, we are going to keep spending until our country becomes worse than Greece.
CROWLEY: And I’m convinced that what you have outlined here—substantial spending cuts, enforceable spending caps, and congressional passage of a constitutional amendment to require a balanced budget, among other things by the way, is not going to happen between now and August 2nd. So, what you’re saying is, ‘I don’t care if the country defaults, unless we do this I’m not voting for a debt ceiling.’
DEMINT: Well, I do care if it defaults, but the fact is, Candy, we won’t. If we never raise the debt ceiling again, we are going to pay our bills, we are going to pay social security—
CROWLEY: Why does everybody say differently? Why does the Treasury Secretary say this is going to be catastrophic? Why do economists say it’ll shake the markets—it will—it will harm the —sort of an unstable recovery? Why don’t you believe that?
DEMINT: Well, default will do it. But we won’t default. We’ll be going back to budget levels of about eight years ago. I mean we’re not talking about Draconian types of situations. But the worst scenario, Candy, is if we blow through the 4th debt ceiling in this administration, if we add another 2 trillion of our debt without taking control of it I think you’re going to see the markets respond in a much worse way as people look in and realize that we don’t have the will to stop this spending. We are already at a level that if interest rates turn to historical–return to– historical averages we can’t pay our debts today.
CROWLEY: But, we’re spending more than we were eight years ago–
DEMINT: We are.
CROWLEY: — so, at some point, you’re headed toward default if you won’t raise that debt ceiling, aren’t you?
DEMINT: Well, if the president decides sometime in October or November that he is not going to pay our bills because he refuses to balance the budget 6 or 8 years out, then I think Americans need to know that. And that’s the point we are going to continue to make. We’re not asking for any cuts (INAUDIBLE) but to work together to do what’s obvious. We can’t keep spending more than we’re bringing in. If we do, any fifth grader could figure out we’re going to bankrupt our country.
And, Candy, the president doesn’t even think it’s a problem. His budget doubled our debt.
CROWLEY: Well, I mean I — I think you could — I mean, obviously the Democrats have been talking, the president has said we need to cut our spending. But you — and there have been, as far as we know, some — some progress, the Democrats saying yes, we’ll cut here and here. And you all won’t budge on tax cuts.
Why isn’t this — why shouldn’t we just look at this and say it is another giant game of chicken by our legislators?
DEMINT: Well, we’ve got more revenue than we ever had. We’re spending more than we ever had. We don’t — we don’t have a — a revenue problem, we have a spending problem. The government is doing things that we can’t do well. We’re wasting billions of dollars. And we’re not going to address that waste and the fraud unless we have to.
If you look at the 49 states, like Wisconsin and New Jersey, I mean they’re making us all proud by making those hard decisions. But the only reason they are is because they have to.
CROWLEY: But, you know, the fact of the matter is that I haven’t talked to an economist and perhaps you have, that hasn’t said you cannot get there by cutting spending unless you cause some real pain. There has to be some sort of revenue enhancement. There has to be tax hikes.
DEMINT: I don’t agree with that. I do think we need to change our —
CROWLEY: So (INAUDIBLE) —
DEMINT: — our tax code.
CROWLEY: — I mean there’s a lot of economists that say — there’s people that really know what they’re talking about here. I’m just trying to figure out why you think that’s not so.
DEMINT: Well, because I’ve worked on this for years. There are things we can do with our entitlements to cut costs over time, again, offering younger workers different choices that cost less. Things that we’re doing here, like education and transportation, that states could do better, we need to start making the decisions of where those need to be done.
I was on an oil rig in — in the Gulf — out in the Gulf this weekend. And it cost over $600 million. It’s been sitting there for months waiting for a permit. Thousands of jobs are on hold. But we won’t do the things that create the jobs that create the revenue.
We can create the revenue we need if we allow this economy to start going again. But the problem is, is this administration seems to be doing everything they can to make it harder and more expensive to hire people.
So revenues will come from economic growth. But spending cuts are essential in order to bring our budget into balance.
CROWLEY: One more policy question, that is, would you support continuation of the payroll tax deduction a part of a plan to cut the deficit?
DEMINT: I — I think those type of temporary things are not helpful. What we really need to do —
CROWLEY: It’s a cut in taxes, though.
DEMINT: Well, it is cutting taxes and it probably puts a little money into the economy.
DEMINT: But Social Security is already broke. And so what we’re doing is just making that a little bit more difficult in the future.
But putting —
CROWLEY: So that’s a tax cut you wouldn’t support?
DEMINT: The tip — well, I’ve supported it before, but temporary taxes are not going to build the type of economy we want, just like the temporary stimulus spending, all it did was prop up some state level jobs for a couple of years until the money ran out. But it didn’t create any real new private sector jobs.
CROWLEY: Let me ask you a political question. And you have said that if there are Republican senators up for reelection next year who vote for an increase in this debt ceiling without these things that you’ve outlined, the cap and balance, you might go ahead and — and back a primary opponent to them that would. You’re talking about Senator Lugar, Senator Snowe, Senator Brown.
Would you consider — if they went ahead and said we’ve got to raise this debt ceiling, you would consider running an opponent against them in a primary?
DEMINT: I have no plans to work against any incumbent Republicans. There are 23 Democrats I — and I’m going to be involved in those races.
But what I do believe, Candy, is that any member of the House or the Senate who doesn’t understand we need to balance our budget probably shouldn’t be there. And certainly a presidential candidate who’s not willing to say we have to balance our budget should not be president of the United States.
CROWLEY: But you would not field race — field candidates against Lugar, Brown, Snowe?
DEMINT: I have no plans to recruit candidates against any of our candidates.
CROWLEY: That’s not exactly a definite no.
DEMINT: I’m not real definite.
CROWLEY: All right.
CROWLEY: We’ll let — we’ll leave it there.
CROWLEY: Looking at the 2012 race now, are there any people in the race now, officially in the race now, that you absolutely could not support?
One of the things I’m thinking is Jon Huntsman just got in. We asked him — he was asked about this pledge and he said, you know, the only pledge I really do is “The Pledge of Allegiance”.
DEMINT: Yes. Well, I won’t support any candidate who does not support balancing the budget.
CROWLEY: So Huntsman is out?
DEMINT: So for me, he’s out. And I think we’ve got a lot of good candidates. The more that I’m around them, the more confident I feel. I think as — as America gets to know them better, I think you’re going to see a few strong ones come out of this field.
CROWLEY: Can you name names here?
DEMINT: But — no, I don’t — I don’t want to —
CROWLEY: (INAUDIBLE) —
DEMINT: — name names, because I’m not writing anyone off unless they write off the idea of a balanced budget.
CROWLEY: Well, you’re writing off Huntsman and I’m — my guess is probably that it would be Romney, who you supported before.
DEMINT: I like all of the candidates. But I’m going to keep an open mind. And the only litmus test I have at this point is really the balanced budget, because I’m convinced we’re going to bankrupt our country and we’re — we’re going to — we’re going to collapse our economy unless we stop spending.
CROWLEY: Is there anything now — because there are people, apparently, that you like and that you could support. I think Congressman Paul is the only one that I know of — perhaps Pawlenty — who said that he would sign it, too.
But is there something that would propel you into this race?
Or have you pretty much said I’m — I’m satisfied with this field?
DEMINT: I can’t think of anything that would — would get me in the race. And so, I’m looking for another candidate who’s willing to carry that burden. But it’s important, I think 2012 may be our last chance as a country to get this right. I’m really convinced that four more years of Obama will destroy our economy. I’m not saying that as a partisan but someone who was in business for years and talks to hundreds of businesses over a month. Everyone is coming in and saying they cannot do business in this environment.
So we need to change that. And we need to change the Senate. So there’s going to be my focus, is the Senate Conservatives Fund, trying to elect conservative senators.
CROWLEY: Texas Governor Rick Perry, there’s been a lot of talk. He’s backed by a lot of the Tea Party people. A lot of people think he ought to get in.
Would you like to see him get in?
DEMINT: I don’t know that much about Governor Perry. He does seem to be bold. And so I’ll need to look into it if he — he decides to get in —
CROWLEY: There’s somebody in this race you like, I can tell.
DEMINT: Will a lot of them and I’ve started meeting with them. And thankfully, a lot of them are asking to come in and speak to me. I’m working with people in Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina, to try to get a lot of people to hold back and not commit so we can see how they respond to this debt ceiling, the balanced budget and some of the things that we’re going to face here over the next few months.
I think we’ll know who our candidate is by how they — they lead based on what we’re doing here.
CROWLEY: Let me ask you about a couple of things that have — have come up recently. One of them is that the president has decided, along with other countries, to open up the Strategic Oil Reserve. I — I believe we’re — where the U.S. is going to put about 30 million barrels into the market. The idea is to drive down gasoline prices.
DEMINT: It’s disturbing because, again, I was on an — an oil drilling rig that’s waiting, he’s been waiting for months for a permit because —
CROWLEY: I mean this is oil that’s already there —
DEMINT: This is (INAUDIBLE) —
CROWLEY: — where it could actually probably influence —
DEMINT: (INAUDIBLE) —
CROWLEY: — the gas market.
DEMINT: But this is a reserve for an emergency. That’s why it’s there. And instead of going after our own oil, our own energy, our own natural gas, the president has made very difficult, really costing us tens of thousands of jobs. Now we’re going to come — come into the Strategic Reserve to — to try to essentially manage oil prices.
Candy, the problem is, is he’s trying to be the wizard behind the curtain in “The Wizard of Oz.” He’s trying to control our economy from Washington. That’s not how it works.
And so we haven’t been able to find the bottom in housing because of all the manipulation. What he’s doing with fuel, what they’re doing with corn.
If you look across the board, central planning doesn’t work. And that’s why America was so unique. We took a completely opposite approach.
He needs to let us develop our own energy as quickly as possible, so we’re not going into our strategic reserves at a time when there doesn’t supposed to be a crisis.
CROWLEY: Let me ask you about Afghanistan. You want to bring down U.S. spending. We are talking about a huge expenditure —
CROWLEY: — $10 billion a month in Afghanistan.
Should we be pulling out more quickly?
DEMINT: Well, I think we either need to be committed, win, finish the job, or we need to get out. I’m concerned about what the president said this week and his —
CROWLEY: Well, which do you prefer —
DEMINT: — his end game —
CROWLEY: — should we get out or should we —
DEMINT: Well, I think we have to finish the job to honor the people who have lost their lives, all those who have been maimed —
DEMINT: It — it is something I’m very concerned about. But I’ve talked to too many families who have lost people. I visited too many people at Walter Reed who’ve given everything they’ve got. We owe it to ourselves and these people to finish the job.
I honestly think if we’re — if the president would follow his generals’ advice, as he has been up to this point, and allow the troops to stay and finish the fight over the next couple of years, then we could get them out.
But the most expensive thing to do may be to withdrew too quickly and find ourselves back in the fray again and starting over.
CROWLEY: Senator John McCain would call that an isolationist trend in the Republican Party.
Do you think that’s fair?
DEMINT: Call what an isolationist trend?
CROWLEY: What he would — he called — we are having some Republicans now saying we ought to pull out, we ought to get out, that we’ve already gotten al Qaeda and so unlike you —
DEMINT: No, that’s their —
CROWLEY: — there are Republicans —
DEMINT: Yes, no, that’s —
CROWLEY: — that (INAUDIBLE) —
DEMINT: — hardly isolationist. And I don’t think John McCain is being fair on that. And I think when we look at things like Libya — and I think that’s where he’s using the isolationist stuff. You know, it’s not a matter anymore of what we want to do or what we should do. I mean we certainly want to protect lives in Libya and Yemen and other places.
Frankly, we can’t afford it anymore. We can’t continue to be the sugar daddy to the world when we have to borrow money from China to do our missions in Libya. We have to realize, as — as Gates has said, as — as the chiefs of — our Joint Chiefs of Staff has said, that our biggest threat to national security is this debt.
And it comes back to where we started, Candy. If we can’t balance our budget, we not only can’t protect the people in Libya, we’re not going to protect the people in South Carolina and all across America.
We’re running out of money. And we’re going to find ourselves on our knees not only to China for credit, OPEC for oil, but we may be on our knees to our — our terrorist enemies, because we don’t have the resources to protect ourselves.
It’s time to go to the mat on this spending.
CROWLEY: Senator Jim DeMint, thank you so much.
I have lots more questions.
DEMINT: Well, good. I will —
CROWLEY: Thank you.
DEMINT: — I’d love to.
CROWLEY: Thank you very much. Appreciate it.
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