A Teleconference With Jim DeMint

Jim DeMint is one of my favorite senators and one of the biggest budget hawks roaming the halls of Congress. That’s why I was happy to get a chance to get in on a teleconference with him this afternoon. Here are my notes (not quotes) from the teleconference.

DeMint’s Opening Comments

I’ve never seen more effort coming from bloggers than the pressure you guys are putting on people in the senate on earmarks. It’s making a difference. We also want a vote on the line item veto because it is very important in stopping earmarks. However, I think the Republican leadership has given up on it for now. They want to include it as part of a minimum wage argument, but I think that’s a big mistake because it’s more relevant now, as part of the earmark debate.

Republicans have lost the debate publicly on the minimum wage, even though a tiny percentage of Americans work for the minimum wage and a lot of them work in restaurants. So, it’s going to pass, but we are trying to add some things in to protect business.

The Q&A Session

Q: What can we help you get out there to make earmark reform more likely?

A: Harry Reid tried to kill disclosure of earmarks. Now he wants to kill the reform of the earmarking process. We just want some more amendments added. The New York Times, the WAPO were in on setting a false story that we’re trying to block reform.

Q: About Social Security…

A: This is one of the most important issues, but unfortunately, I think the best strategy is to stop the senate from taking it back up with the President signaling that he will accept tax increases and benefit cuts. The climate right now just makes it unlikely that we’ll get a real Social Security reform bill through.*

Q: Do you think (Reid)* has betrayed you on earmark reform?

A: I felt betrayed last week. I tried to say some good things about working with the Democrats and they slammed the bill I was working on, even though they were basically submitting exactly the same thing. But, I don’t expect them to play fair. The media isn’t giving us any help, which is why bloggers are more important.

Q: Do you think that insisting on having a vote on recission authority right now may be pushing things too far politically?

A: We need to have more reform to make this work, including recission authority which makes a huge difference. If we don’t have a line item veto and eliminate adding earmarks in conference, I’m not sure it will help that much.

Q: Are bloggers going to be affected by Senate ethics bill (S. 1) which makes bloggers into lobbyists if they write 500 people?

A: It’s a big concern because it could cause an enormous amount of reporting to the government, lots of paperwork. If we allow the Democrats to tie strings to radio hosts and the blogosphere, we’re just not going to have much of a conservative voice out there.

Q: A Bennett Amendment, #20 to Senate bill 1, will be voted on which will strike section 220 from Senate bill 1 in its entirety. Section 220 would make just about everyone a lobbyist, including people who wrote their senators a couple of times. The penalties would be enormous, $100,000 fine and 10 years in prison, and that could affect bloggers urging people to call their congressman. Hopefully, the votes to remove it entirely from the bill will be there.

A: That would be great.

Q: Why would the line-item veto cut spending?

A: It would allow the President, 4 times a year, to send things back to the House in a block to be eliminated. He doesn’t strip them out, we would have to actually vote on them. If the President sent things back, it would embarrass the Senate, it would make them more likely not to send it up in the first place, and it would make them more likely to kill them when they come back. It would work like the BRAC package with military bases.

Closing: Thanks to the bloggers to be a voice to the American people. We can’t get a fair shake from the mainstream media, but you guys help get our message out.

* After hearing from Senator DeMint’s aid, Tim Chapman, I made a correction and a small change to the original post to better reflect what the Senator was trying to get across.

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