Washington — Sen. Jim DeMint (R., S.C.) is cheering on the Tea Party’s efforts to play hardball with Democrats on spending cuts. “I just hope that we are not so afraid of a government shutdown that we are not willing to make the right decisions,” he says in an interview with National Review Online. “That is what the Tea Party is for.”
On Thursday, Tea Party groups will rally outside of the Capitol, urging lawmakers to pass a continuing resolution that includes more than $60 billion in spending cuts for the remainder of the fiscal year along with controversial legislative ‘riders’ to defund Obamacare and Planned Parenthood, among other federal programs.
DeMint is pleased that the Tea Party is shaking up the spending debate and looks forward to joining the rally, if his schedule permits. “I am glad they are having it,” he smiles. “If it all possible, I will be there. I really appreciate that pressure. Already, too many people are forgetting that we were elected to get control of our spending and debt, and now we are arguing about cutting enough spending for a week’s worth of borrowing.”
DeMint met with House conservative leaders earlier today and advised them on how to frame their argument as Senate Democrats push for a deal. “I spoke with them about being more aggressive and bolder,” he says. “Unless the Tea Party stays active, we will wilt.”
DeMint rejects the idea that $20 billion in cuts, the rumored Democratic proposal, will be sufficient. “That’s about what we borrow in a week,” he says. “That is a ridiculously low amount of money.” Conservatives, he advises, should dig in their heels. “The riders are as important as the amount. We can’t fund Obamacare. Funding things like Planned Parenthood in this kind of environment is ridiculous.”
“Democrats have been sending signals for several months that all Republicans want to shut down the government, and we keep saying, ‘No, we don’t want to do that.’ But if Democrats shut it down over Planned Parenthood or public broadcasting, or something like that, that is an argument that we can win,” he concludes. “To hold the government hostage to continue this reckless spending is irresponsible.”