OTR Interviews

DeMint: We're Not Elected to Make It Easier to Raise the Debt Limit, 'Cut, Cap and Balance' the Only Real Plan

Sen. Jim DeMint takes on the 'Gang of Six' plan and explains why 'Cut, Cap and Balance' may be the best bet for a debt deal


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," July 20, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: The Tea Party has made it plain. They have drawn a line in the sand over the debt ceiling. But will the Tea Party derail the "Gang of Six" proposal if they don't get everything they want?

Senator Jim DeMint, co-founder of the Senate Tea Party caucus, who is out with a brand-new book, "The Great American Awakening," joins us. Nice to see you, sir.

SEN. JIM DEMINT, R-S.C.: Greta, it's good to be with you.

VAN SUSTEREN: And this chronicles sort of the last two years of the Tea Party and the big changes this country has gone through.

DEMINT: It goes through what was happening outside of Washington and inside of Washington, and the whole point is Americans can change things if they get active.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. And you know, I -- I told you before we sat down that I love a guest who shows up with my notes right (INAUDIBLE). So you're in favor of "cut, cap and balance," is that right? Can I assume that from that button?

DEMINT: Well, it's -- you certainly can. And it's the only plan on the table. You know, the president's latched onto this "Gang of Six," but the "Gang of Six" proposal is not written down. As Senator Thune said, it's not even going to be a factor.

There's no other plan on Capitol Hill. The president doesn't have one. The Democrats in the Senate don't have one. And the only house that we control as Republicans have passed a plan that increases the debt limit with some very reasonable cuts in spending, and it lets the states decide about a balanced budget.

Now, they say if that's extreme, then we need to change the definition of extreme.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, I guess -- I mean, you know, I understand your passion and other people in favor of "cut, cap and balance," but when you look at the numbers, it doesn't look like it's going to happen. At least - - I mean, you've got to get 60. Do you have 60 in the Senate?

DEMINT: Well, we won't have this week.


DEMINT: But we could have August the 15th, if we had to. The only way Republicans are going to get anything that helps our country is to let the president know if he's willing to go past August 2nd, we are, too. And we don't want to do that. It will be disruptive. But we won't default and we will pay seniors' Social Security and Medicare, unless the president just chooses not to because the resources are there.

But people need to be clear about what's going on, Greta. In the last couple of days, by intent, the president has covered over the message of what Republicans did in the House. We've done all we can do. I mean, we can't get a proposal out of the White House. We can't get a proposal out of the Democrats. The Republicans in the Senate compromised on their own. They gave the president an increase in the debt limit that he asked for, the whole $2.4 trillion. But we have to cut some spending. Moody's...

VAN SUSTEREN: Back to the 2008 level? Would that satisfy you...


DEMINT: That's where we're starting and -- but the cuts are just -- are gradual over 10 years that bring us towards a balanced budget. And if we don't balance our budget, we're going to bankrupt our country.

VAN SUSTEREN: How much -- I use the term lightly -- mischief -- I mean, do you have enough numbers in the Tea Party caucus and those who signed on with you to block the "Gang of Six" and to make it so any effort by the president and the "Gang of Six" -- so if they completely disregard you, that -- do you have the muscle to stop them?

DEMINT: There won't be a "Gang of Six." Now, the president may take some elements of it and put it in some plan, but he's not going to submit a plan. We've learned that he doesn't ever show his cards. He's going to want Republicans to negotiate with ourselves. And that's what we have been doing. Mitch McConnell came up with a plan. The "Gang of Six"...

VAN SUSTEREN: You don't like Mitch McConnell's -- Senator McConnell's plan.

DEMINT: No, no. That's not what we were elected to do, make it easier to increase the debt limit.

VAN SUSTEREN: Does he say anything to you, like -- does he say, Listen, Jim, you know, we need you to come on board a little bit...

DEMINT: No, I...

VAN SUSTEREN: ... and tame those Tea Party senators?

DEMINT: No, he's assured me he's leading the effort in the Senate to pass "cut, cap and balance." And people say it can't be done, but over 20 Democrats in the Senate have campaigned on a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.

VAN SUSTEREN: So how are they going to vote on Saturday?

DEMINT: Well, the -- I don't know. I know that Harry Reid is going try to get them to filibuster this. But if they filibuster it and won't even let us proceed to debate and consider amendments, what else can Republicans do, that we passed it in the House, we brought it to the Senate and they filibuster it, and they don't have a plan on their own. So somehow, we've got to get the message to the American people that Republicans are willing to compromise and work with the president, but we can't vote on a speech, and that's all we get from this president.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, it's sort of interesting because as we get down to the line and if we see that there's no plan or there's no program and it hasn't been scored so that we're going to run into this deadline, it seems like the next sort of strategy from both political parties is how to make the American people think it's the other party who did it.

DEMINT: Well, that's part of the smoke and mirrors. The only real plan again is the "cut, cap and balance." It's not smoke and mirrors. It's real. It meets the criteria of Standard and Poor's and Moody's as far as significant deficit reduction. So -- and it'll keep us from default because we raise the debt limit.

But you know, one of the things I write a lot about in the book, and you asked about it, Greta -- do we have enough horsepower on the outside with the Tea Party and American people? That's the big question right now. We've got the largest coalition of outside groups in my memory that are behind "cut, cap and balance." We've got well over 100 groups, well over 100 Tea Party. We're trying to get Americans involved in the process.

And if Democrats want to -- if they want to filibuster this, there's nothing to follow it. I mean, that's really important to understand. We can't develop legislation in two weeks. The only piece of legislation that exists right now that can -- that can raise the debt limit before August the 2nd "cut, cap and balance." And if the Democrats blow it away without any explanation -- I just want to hear the president say what's wrong with it. The piece he put out from the White House was so inaccurate, it makes you want to scream.

VAN SUSTEREN: Why do you think that happened?

DEMINT: Because this -- the plan to cut spending and cap spending would change the agenda of an administration that plans to spend or add another $10 trillion to our debt.

VAN SUSTEREN: Yes, but is that a -- that's a different ideology. It's not like the president's sitting there thinking at the White House tonight, Boy, I really want to run this place into the ground.

DEMINT: Well...

VAN SUSTEREN: He has a -- his view is he has a -- his way to sort of restore America, whether it's right or wrong, is just -- is a different ideology.

DEMINT: Well, it's...

VAN SUSTEREN: Whether it works or not -- and I -- I'll admit that...

DEMINT: This is not ideology. This is common sense. Alan Greenspan says we're close to our borrowing limit. The president proposed adding another $10 trillion to our debt in his budget. So he apparently doesn't think it's a problem.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, see, I -- if I were the president, I'd be worried about that February '09 stimulus bill and the fact that we still haven't pulled out of our employment situation as being sort of a signal that we're on the wrong track.

DEMINT: He doesn't understand that the private sector creates our economy. The stimulus was government spending. And now he wants to take more taxes out of the private economy in a recession. He doesn't know how American free enterprise capitalism works.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, why do the other Democrats go along with him?

DEMINT: Well, again, I don't know. It's politics. But they're playing politics with a tax increase that would do more to hurt jobs than to create them.

VAN SUSTEREN: Why do you think they want to raise taxes?

DEMINT: Because they believe in a centralized government and collectivism and they've demonstrated...

VAN SUSTEREN: Different ideology?

DEMINT: That is a different ideology. But a balanced budget over time, Greta, would have to change their agenda. The campaigns could no longer be about promising more from government, more government programs. They couldn't create more government dependency, which creates more dependable votes.

We've got a polarization in Washington, but outside of Washington -- I write about it in "The Great Awakening" -- is America is uniting around fiscal issues. You've got Libertarians and liberals and Democrats and independents coming to Tea Parties because they're concerned about our spending and our debt. That's what they did last November.

If Republicans cave here, Greta, you're going to see the deterioration of the Republican Party. If the president is willing to go past August the 2nd -- and I don't want to because he's pulling the strings -- he can make it look like chaos, even if it's not. Republicans are going to have to give the president our best proposal, and if he doesn't like it, he needs to give us one.

VAN SUSTEREN: Senator, nice to see you. And congratulations on the book, "The Great American Awakening." Thank you, sir.

DEMINT: Thanks, Greta.