Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) yesterday pledged his support for the Republican Study Committee’s preferred method to deal with the debt limit. In a speech Friday at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference, the quintessential conservative senator announced his support for the “Cut, Cap and Balance” pledge.
But DeMint did more than that: He also made the pledge a presidential litmus test. Any candidate who wants his presidential endorsement will have to agree to the RSC’s three-pronged mantra, he says.
“I’m telling every presidential candidate, if your name isn’t on this list, don’t come see me,” DeMint said.
Michael O’Brien at The Hill explains why DeMint’s statement bears significance:
Support from the South Carolina senator will be especially coveted by White House contenders, both for the boost in a key primary state and because of his status as a conservative icon within the GOP. DeMint challenged House and Senate candidates to sign the pledge, too.
DeMint’s website already lists the names of some House and Senate lawmakers and a pair of congressional candidates who’ve signed. But he appears poised to push the pledge on Republican presidential candidates in such a way that it could become a litmus test for not only conservatives, but also Democrats who may want to use the pledge against GOP contenders.
Earlier in the week, on CNBC’s The Kudlow Report, RSC Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) reiterated the importance of the plan DeMint so strongly favors.
“We have to use the leverage associated with this debt ceiling vote to put the country on a path that makes sense, one that’s actually sustainable,” Jordan said. “The fiscal path we’re on will lead to a debt crisis. … If we’re going to just kick it down the road, you’re going to see conservative members not support increasing the debt ceiling. We have to do bold, dramatic things – cut spending, cap spending and we believe a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution.”
Jordan pretty roundly defeated his debate opponent on the show, Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), who seemed not to remember that, in 2004, he opposed a debt limit increase to force “a serious debate on fiscal policy.” Today, Sherman says the debt ceiling debate is not the time to “deal with spending.” In 2004, the debt stood at $7.4 trillion. Today, it’s more than $14 trillion. Surely Sherman sees the irony.
As I’ve written before, “Cut, Cap and Balance” makes an immense amount of sense. It seems like a long shot, but maybe DeMint’s considerable weight — and Jordan’s sound defense of the strategy — will make it happen.