Sen. Jim DeMint on 'Fox News Sunday'

The following is a rush transcript of the July 4, 2010, edition of "Fox News Sunday With Chris Wallace." This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

MAJOR GARRETT, GUEST HOST: President Obama, as he sometimes does, took it to Republicans this week over immigration and unemployment computation, to name just two issues.

For Republican reaction, we turn to Senator Jim DeMint, who joins us from his home state of South Carolina.

Senator, welcome. Happy 4th of July. Thanks for joining us on "Fox News Sunday."

SEN. JIM DEMINT, R-S.C.: Well, Major, it's not only America's birthday, my daughter Ginger was born on the 4th, so I want to wish her a happy birthday today.

GARRETT: And a very happy birthday to Ginger.

Senator DeMint, your Republican Party national chairman Michael Steele said something earlier this week in Connecticut I'd like you to listen to first, and then I'll get your evaluation.


MICHAEL STEELE, CHAIRMAN OF THE RNC: This is a war of Obama's choosing. This is not — this is not something the United States had actively constituted or wanted to engage in.


GARRETT: The war Steele was referring to, Senator, is the war in Afghanistan. Sir, many Republicans, some in Congress — Tom Cole, Duncan Hunter — have called for the chairman of the Republican National Committee to resign over these remarks. Do you agree?

DEMINT: Well, Chairman Steele needs to apologize to our military, all the men and women who've been fighting in Afghanistan. This is America's war. It's not Obama's war. He needs to refocus on electing candidates who can stop this rampage of spending and debt in Washington.

Whether or not he resigns is up to other people than me. But I need to see him focused on this November election, which is important because the Democrat Party is running our country in a ditch with the economy, our job situation, the debt situation. We need a chairman who's focused.

GARRETT: Other than an apology, do you find something offensive about the what many have called anti-historical nature of this? I mean, not only was the war prosecuted under President Bush but the war came to us via 9/11.

DEMINT: Well, I do. I think everyone — I mean, it's unacceptable. A careless comment, obviously, and it's inaccurate. This is America's war. We're in Afghanistan because they attacked us. And it's a war, as Joe Lieberman said earlier, we've got to win.

We've got to get rid of this arbitrary deadline that sends a signal we're not committed. This is a war we can win and we must win.

GARRETT: I want to move on to what the president said today — said this weekend, rather, about unemployment compensation. Here is the president talking in his weekly radio address about the fight over the issue.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: While a majority of senators support taking these steps to help the American people, some are playing the same old Washington games and using their power to hold this relief hostage.


GARRETT: A Republican filibuster in the senate, as you well now, Senator DeMint, is holding up and has held up for four straight times unemployment compensation extension.

I know the Republicans want that offset with spending cuts. But nevertheless, unemployment continues to rage in this country. Millions of Americans are going to lose their unemployment benefits. Tens of thousands in South Carolina will lose them because your unemployment rate is actually higher than the national unemployment rate.

Senator DeMint, don't those folks deserve some help, extended help? And are Republicans going to offer in any way assistance to the president to get that done?

DEMINT: Major, we can't help people by bankrupting our country, and that is apparently what the Democrats intend to do. This is their fourth year in complete control of Congress.

And we have suggested and voted on several times an unemployment extension that would be paid for by taking money from the failed stimulus program or other programs, but the Democrats seem committed to add this money to our debt, which is something future Americans will have to pay for. So they're playing the politics with this game — I mean, with this whole big issue.

And Republicans want to extend these benefits. So it's a showdown of philosophy here in Washington. Do we add this to the debt and bankrupt our country, or do we work together to pay for this in a way that won't put the burden on the next generation? GARRETT: But, Senator, isn't it true that Democrats have more votes than Republicans do for this philosophical clash? You've had the clash four times. You're not going to win it. You're not going to resolve it.

And doesn't it seem to you that there are innocent Americans trapped in the middle of this philosophical debate that's not going to be resolved, and they're the ones between now and the midterm elections who are going to suffer?

DEMINT: Well, the Democrats are losing some Democrat votes on this, too, because they're hearing what I'm hearing all over the country — is America is tiring of the spending, the borrowing, the debt, the government takeovers. They want us to show some discipline.

Major, there's nothing compassionate about a senator voting for a new spending bill and then not having the courage to pay for it by taking the money from some other wasteful program that's clearly not working.

The president has spent nearly $1 trillion on his government growth program that he called a stimulus. There's still unspent money there. And if we need to show compassion, which I believe we do, we need to pay for that in a way that doesn't burden future generations.

And I think most Americans agree with us and, increasingly, even the Democrats agree with us.

GARRETT: Let's turn now to immigration, Senator. The president delivered his first full-blown speech on the topic of immigration reform earlier in week. And he talked about Republicans. Let's take a quick listen:


OBAMA: Reform that brings accountability to our immigration system cannot pass without Republican votes. That is the political and mathematical reality.


GARRETT: You know, Senator, very well that my daytime zip code is over at the White House, so I hear from White House officials with some regularity.

And one of the things they argue is if Republicans were genuinely serious about border control, improving employee relationships — and that is to say blocking illegals from working here in America — they would get on board with the president's call for wide-ranging immigration reform, and the fact that you don't ought to in the public mind undercut their credibility and your willingness and your commitment to border security. Does it?

DEMINT: Major, we need to be clear here what the president's talking about. When he says comprehensive reform, what he's talking about is amnesty and voting rights for those who came here illegally. I don't think we can reform our immigration policy by rewarding those who came here illegally. I know we tried to do things as Republicans. I've introduced a bill to complete the fence.

The border patrol tells us where we have double-layer fencing we are able to stop almost completely a lot of the flow of not just illegal workers but drugs and arms and human smuggling.

The president has refused to secure our border. And as others have said, he is holding border security hostage to his political agenda. And this is a serious problem when states like Arizona have to take matters in their own hands because their people are being kidnaped and murdered.

The president is the one who's playing politics with this. We need to secure our borders first. There's no reason to even talk about an immigration plan if we can't control who's coming and going in our country.

This is a dangerous situation. The president is playing politics because the Democrats want more votes. They want more union members. And this is pretty clear by who's organizing the whole effort to promote amnesty among those who came here illegally.

GARRETT: Senator DeMint, very quickly, your Republican colleague Lindsey Graham is quoted in this morning's Sunday New York Times Magazine saying he doesn't believe the Tea Party is going to last because it doesn't have a philosophy to govern.

How irritated are you, sir, to hear that from Lindsey Graham when you, of course, have financially backed many Tea Party candidates and have identified with its particular approach to political philosophy?

DEMINT: Well, Lindsey's a great friend but he's wrong on this. We're going to see in November Americans step up, not just those who call themselves Tea Party members. The Tea Party is just the tip of the iceberg of an American awakening of people who are standing up. They want to take back their government.

It's not a matter of right or left or conservative or liberal. It's really a matter about success or failure as a country. And I think Americans are going to show in November that this isn't going away.

GARRETT: Senator DeMint, South Carolina Republican, thank you very much for your time on this happy 4th of July. Happy 4th of July to you.

DEMINT: Thank you, Major.

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