Jim DeMint, leader of the resistance?

The “fiscal cliff” drama presents opportunities for leadership, which is something the Republican Party naturally seeks, following a difficult election loss.  Among those bidding for the leadership of the conservative resistance is Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC), who issued a tough statement about House Speaker John Boehner’s instantly rejected compromise proposal:

Speaker Boehner’s $800 billion tax hike will destroy American jobs and allow politicians in Washington to spend even more, while not reducing our $16 trillion debt by a single penny.  This isn’t rocket science. Everyone knows that when you take money out of the economy, it destroys jobs, and everyone knows that when you give politicians more money, they spend it. This is why Republicans must oppose tax increases and insist on real spending reductions that shrink the size of government and allow Americans to keep more of their hard-earned money.

Big government is the cause of our debt crisis, not the solution. Washington has a spending addiction that is shackling our children and grandchildren with unsustainable debt. Conservatives fought for a balanced budget amendment last year precisely because we knew the political establishment in Washington would never stop their tax and spend addiction without it. However, if neither party leadership is going to put forward a serious plan to balance the budget and pay down the debt, we should end this charade. We can stop the fiscal cliff with the bill that House Republicans already passed that simply extends the current tax rates and replaces the defense cuts with reductions in wasteful spending.

(Emphases mine.)  Curiously, I noticed that a great many media sources quoted the first highlighted passage from DeMint’s statement… but virtually none of them quoted the second part, where he reminds everyone that he put his shoulders behind a plan that really would have solved our deficit crisis, the Cut, Cap and Balance Act.  At one point during Washington’s previous “budget ceiling” Muppet show, DeMint said he was only a votes shy of getting Cut, Cap, and Balance through the Senate.  It was killed with parliamentary manuevers in the Senate – you know, stuff like the filibuster that becomes a menace to democracy when Republicans do it, but is the very essence of patriotism in Democrat hands.

Cut, Cap and Balance proponents – and their even more dour brethren, the “leave the debt ceiling in place” crew – correctly predicted that Washington’s political machinery would end up producing a meaningless “deal” that didn’t really cut spending, but left us with even more unsustainable debt.  They could not have been more correct.  The result of the last debt ceiling drama was the Budget Control Act of 2011, which “controlled” the deficit in the same sense that a little kid in seat 34C with a plastic dashboard is “controlling” the airplane he’s riding on.

DeMint also makes a point that more reporters should be asking President Obama and his surrogates: if the national debt is no big deal, and a few billion in spending here and there amounts to mere pocket change, why not just extend the entire Bush tax rate package for another year and have a longer, more serious discussion about what to do next?  DeMint has long expressed his misgivings about making historic decisions during the artificially-induced panic of a lame-duck session.  Surely Uncle Sam’s credit cards can handle a little more debt, while we take our time to formulate a rational plan and build a national consensus behind it – a process that must inevitably include making those dependent upon government programs comfortable with significant reductions.  Running up the national credit card was not even a momentary consideration when it came to passing ObamaCare, was it?  That crazy thing blows the deficit even higher with every passing month, but for some reason Democrats only slip on their green eyeshades when it’s time to count the money Americans don’t send to Washington.

Senator DeMint also delivered some solid resistance to the silly notion of a revenue-starved Washington via Twitter on Tuesday, as noted by CNN:

DeMint added his voice to the fray Tuesday morning with a tweet critical of the House Republican proposal, which included an extension of the Bush-era tax breaks as well as accomplishing $2.2 trillion in savings, among them $600 billion in non-entitlement spending cuts and $800 billion in “health savings.”

He tweeted: “Speaker Boehner’s offer of an $800 billion tax hike will destroy jobs and allow politicians in Washington to spend even more.”

The Palmetto State Republican defended his stance, saying, “This federal government doesn’t need more money.”

“This country needs less federal government.  We’re gonna be near historic highs of tax revenues in Washington this year.  More money than we’ve ever had.  So it’s not a revenue problem, it’s a spending problem,” he said.

He chided Republicans, saying “this is not a time to negotiate with ourselves” and describing Obama’s proposal as “outlandish.”

“This is a time to work together where we can, but it’s clear that what Obama wants is not a solution to our deficit problem, because his proposal doesn’t even come close, and it’s not a plan at all,” DeMint said.

DeMint has repeatedly said he doesn’t plan to seek another term in the Senate come 2016, and in the opinion of some observers, has lately sounded a bit more amenable to the idea of running for President instead.  The Senate is, at least in theory, more likely to yield a candidate with durable national appeal and fundraising prowess than the House; the current President was a Senator first, after all.

But Senators make the sort of public statements that come back to haunt them, too, and no Republican senator is ever going to get the blank slate handed to Barack Obama when he decided on a White House run.  DeMint’s tough talk on the fiscal cliff over the past few days has been tempered by something he said two months, one presidential election, and several political epochs ago, to Bloomberg News:

???You can???t get a deal with Obama without raising taxes on the producing class of folks,??? said South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint, a leader of the limited-spending Tea Party movement. ???We might as well cut a deal,??? he said. ???If Republicans want to maintain the defense, we???re going to have to give tax increases to Obama.???

Today Senator Charles Schumer of New York, the Senate???s third-ranking Democrat, said DeMint???s comments may signal an end to congressional gridlock. ???When Jim DeMint is suddenly open to revenues, you know the tide is turning,??? said Schumer.

DeMint???s office didn???t immediately return a phone call seeking comment, though a report on said DeMint clarified that, while a tax increase would be necessary to get a deal with Obama, he would personally ???never??? support it.

It doesn’t really sound as if DeMint’s initial quote – the one that made Chuck Schumer giddy – was just academic speculation about something he would never actually support, since he used phrases like “we might as well cut a deal.”  His later clarification, interpreted literally, means he would never cut a deal – he would never agree to the one thing he believes Obama will never stop demanding.  At the time, he was talking about avoiding the sequestration defense cuts; he could fairly say that the election, and President Obama’s subsequent irresponsible behavior, has changed the discussion.

It sounds as if DeMint is putting considerable effort into making himself crystal clear on that point.  It’s about time someone of stature spoke up loud and clear for the one idea that always works, which is of course the only idea that doesn’t seem to be on the table: cutting taxes, to reduce the burden government places upon the private sector, while trimming the federal government down to something America can actually afford.