DeMint: Conceding Debt Ceiling Battle Will Destroy GOP

Friday, 24 Jun 2011 12:20 PM

By Martin Gould, Hiram Reisner and Abigail Walls

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Tea party favorite Sen. Jim DeMint issued a rallying call to all Republicans telling them if they cave in to Democratic demands on debt ceiling talks they can kiss their future in the GOP goodbye.

The two-term junior senator from South Carolina made it clear that Republicans must stand up and say there can be no increase to the limit without a huge cut in spending.

His call came as bipartisan talks on raising the debt ceiling led by Vice-President Joe Biden broke down when Republican Rep. Eric Cantor and Sen. Jon Kyl walked out. Now it seems inevitable that the only way they will end in success is if President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner get involved and somehow come to an agreement.

But in a series of television appearances, DeMint, a powerbroker who has proved how crucial his support can be to GOP candidates, said he won’t support anyone who caves.

“Based on what I can see around the country, not only are those individuals gone, but I would suspect the Republican Party would be set back many years,” he said in an interview for the ABC Subway Series.

"It would be the most toxic vote. I can tell you if you look at the polls, Democrats, Republicans, Independents, they do not think we should increase the debt limit.”

And he told Fox News’ Sean Hannity, “The Democrats are not able to cut spending. Their whole political base is created by giving money away – redistributing wealth; new government programs. The idea of a balanced budget to them essentially puts them out of business.

“So, the Republicans have to be prepared to fight to stop this reckless spending.”

He told Hannity that the battle over the debt limit is “the fight of our generation,” saying he found it amazing that the federal government is bringing in record amounts of revenue but “the spending line goes straight up and continues out over 10 years.”

“We don’t have a revenue problem – we’ve got a spending problem,” DeMint said. “But if we cut the spending, you would see the revenue begin to grow.”

“Republicans owe it to Americans to tell them where we stand and what we are willing to fight for,” he added.

DeMint’s threat to his fellow Republicans can be backed up. He has proven that his support can make or break members of the party. He played a key role in supporting successful conservative candidates Marco Rubio of Florida and Rand Paul of Kentucky during the 2010 midterm Senate elections. He helped two others, Christine O’Donnell of Delaware and Ken Buck of Colorado win the GOP primaries though they failed to win the election.

Now he is asking all Republican candidates for the 2012 presidential nomination to sign his “Cut, Cap and Balance” pledge on the budget. He said he will not support anyone who refuses. Three current candidates, Ron Paul, Tim Pawlenty and Herman Cain have already signed and a fourth, Rick Santorum says he will. Jon Huntsman is the only one who has flat-out said he will not sign.

"I don't have many litmus tests, but this is one: Any candidate who doesn't understand that we need to balance the budget should not be president of the United States," he said.

He is also calling for a Constitutional Amendment for a balanced budget. “The only way that we are ever going to stop this spending addiction in Washington is if we are forced to by the constitution,” he told Hannity.

The bipartisan talks on the debt ceiling reached crisis on Thursday when Leader of the House, Cantor walked out, saying Republicans and Democrats were at an impasse. Cantor called on Obama to take the lead, saying he made his move to “change the dynamic.”

“It is time for the president to speak clearly and resolve the tax issue,” he said. “Once resolved, we have a blueprint to move forward to trillions of spending cuts and binding mechanisms to change the way things are done around here.”

Kyl soon followed suit but expressed a willingness to continue bipartisan talks and has since talked to Biden.

Boehner said he understood Cantor’s frustration but said the talks could continue if the Democrats took tax increases off the table.

The Obama administration says the debt limit must be raised from its current $14.3 trillion by early August to meet the government’s obligations.

The alternative would be a market-shaking, first-ever default which, investors fear, would almost certainly cost the U.S. to lose its coveted AAA credit rating and further raise interest rates for businesses and households.

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