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CNN "State of the Union with Candy Crowley" - Transcript

Interview

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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 some other members of the Senate, the U.S. Congress and various 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 until there are substantial spending cuts that would take effect 2012. Define substantial.

DEMINT: Well, we're leaving that open so we can negotiate. But we need to do something that significantly lowers spending in the short term.

The second point, to 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 am convinced, if we don't have that requirement, we're going to keep spending until our country becomes worse than Greece.

CROWLEY: And I'm convinced that what you have outlined here 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're going to pay our bills; we're 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 will shape the market? 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, if we blow through the fourth 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.

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 dealt 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 six or eight years out, then I think Americans need to know that.

CROWLEY: 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 have. We're spending more than we ever have. We don't -- we don't have 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 fraud until we have to.

CROWLEY: The fact of the matter is that I haven't talked to an economists -- 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: There's a lot of economists that say this, 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, begin offering younger workers different choices that costs less; things that we're doing here like education and transportation, that states can do better, we need to start making decisions of where those need to be done.

I was on an oil rig in the Gulf this weekend, and it costs 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 the economy to start going again, but the problem 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: Let me ask you a political question. And you have said that, if there are Republican senators up for re-election next year who vote for an increase in this debt ceiling without these things that you've outlined, the Cut, Cap and Balance, you might go ahead and back a primary opponent to them that would.

Are you 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 up 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 -- field candidates against Lugar, Brown, Snowe?

DEMINT: I have no plans to recruit candidates against any of our incumbents.

CROWLEY: That's not exactly a definite no?

DEMINT: I'm not real definite.

(LAUGHTER)

CROWLEY: OK. We'll let...

(LAUGHTER)

We'll leave it there.

DEMINT: OK.

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: Yeah. Well, I won't support any candidate who does not support balancing the budget.

CROWLEY: So Huntsman's 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? Who do you like?

DEMINT: No, I don't want to name -- 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 my -- my guess is, probably, that 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.

CROWLEY: But is there something that would propel you into this race, or have you pretty much said, I'm satisfied with this... DEMINT: I can't think of anything that would get me in the race. And so I am looking for another candidate who is 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's coming in and saying they cannot do business in this environment.

CROWLEY: Texas Governor Rick Perry -- there's been a lot of talk. He's backed by a lot of Tea Party people, a lot of people saying 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...

CROWLEY: There's somebody in this race you like? I can tell.

DEMINT: Well, I like 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 lead based on what we're doing here.

CROWLEY: Senator Jim DeMint, thank you so much. Come back. I have lots more questions.

DEMINT: Oh, good. I will. I'd love to. Thank you.

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