Sen. Jim DeMint and Rep. Mike Pence made an appearance on John King's show with their latest set of demands on extending tax cuts for the rich.
So much for Pence's previous inadvertent admission that they didn't work.
A pair of prominent Republicans -- one from the Senate, the other from the House – on Thursday called for a permanent extension of tax cuts at all income levels, just as a vigorous floor debate was under way about Democratic legislation to extend tax relief for just the middle class.
"Sen. Jim DeMint and I are introducing legislation that will ensure that no American, small business owner or family farmer will see a tax increase on Jan. 1, 2011, 2012, 2013 and beyond," said Indiana Rep. Mike Pence.
DeMint and Pence introduced the bill before Thanksgiving, but started promoting it Thursday. They want an up-or-down vote on all the tax cuts at the same time, a permanent end to the estate tax and a fix for the alternative minimum tax. The duo told reporters that uncertainty about future tax rates is stifling economic recovery.
"The economy is waiting to roar back in this country," DeMint of South Carolina said, "and the fact that we have waited this long to even address the issue tells you that the people running this government don't understand how business works."
Transcript below the fold via CNN.
KING: As the White House and congressional leaders negotiate a possible temporary extension of the Bush tax cuts, two leading conservative voices in the Congress are shaking their heads saying that isn't good enough. Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina and Congressman Mike Pence of Indiana have new legislation to indefinitely extend the current tax rates. Yet both also say Washington needs to do a better job balancing its books.
So does their math add up? Senator DeMint and Congressman Pence joins us now from Capitol Hill. If you match up the strategy, what you're leaders are doing in these negotiations with the White House right now with the legislation you gentlemen propose. To you Senator first, is it fair to say you believe at the moment your leaders are being too timid, they should be asking for more?
SEN. JIM DEMINT (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Well I know they needed to negotiate, but what Mike and I want to do is to allow every congressmen and senators an up and down vote on a permanent extension. What we hear from the business community and individuals all over the country is we need some certainty. You can't plan to grow a business in six to 12 months. Sometimes it's a five or 10-year process. So to have certainty in what the tax rates will be is much more important than a temporary extension of the current rates. We don't need a temporary economy and so we don't need temporary tax rates.
KING: And yet, as both of you describe yourselves as fiscal conservatives, Congressman, do you think you have the obligation and to put forward at the same time -- the Congressional Budget Office says extending those tax cuts over 10 years would cost about $4 trillion in red ink? Would you put forward offsetting budget cuts and saying look here is what we'll cut as we cut these taxes as well.
REP. MIKE PENCE (R), INDIANA: Well look, there's no question and Senator DeMint and I are of one mind and have been for many years, we've got to put our fiscal house in order with restraint, with budget cuts, with entitlement reform. But job one right now needs to be to get this economy growing again. And I've got to tell you the last thing -- back home in Indiana the last thing anybody wants to see Washington do in the worst economy in 25 years is raise taxes on anybody.
And the House actually just voted today to allow a tax increase on small business owners and family farmers and what Jim and I are advocating I think would be broadly supported by the majority of the American people and that is not a tax increase in four weeks, not a tax increase in one year or two years -- let's begin the pathway back to prosperity by saying that the tax rates are what they are. Let's permanently extend all the current tax rates and then we can begin to build and rebuild our economy on top of that certainty.
KING: Is that an absolute position for both of you? I ask that in the context of this debate we're now going to have about the president's commission on deficit reduction and the plan they put forward. Perhaps they can't get enough votes to force a vote in the Congress. But they have laid out a plan that is eye-opening in some ways. And one of the things they insist that yes, you need to raise the retirement age and do some things in Social Security, get some money out of Medicare, make some cuts across the government, the Pentagon and everything else. But they also insist that in the end they would prefer a flatter tax code, take away some of the loopholes and some of the deductions but also a bit of a tax increase in the end. Is that completely off the table for both of you?
DEMINT: Well John I'll start. I do like the flat rate tax. I would throw all the deductions out the window, if we could have a lower flat tax rate. I don't think we need to increase taxes. And getting back to your previous point, keeping tax rates the same should not be considered a trillion dollar or more cost to the government. We're just keeping want the money in the private sector where it's been earned. So again, both of us want to see us address the debt issue. One of the most important things we could do to address the debt is get the economy going again and a permanent extension of the current tax rates would give our businesses, our individuals, our entrepreneurs more predictability so they could plan to add jobs in the future.
PENCE: And John, I really think it's a really important point to emphasize that -- and let me also agree on the flat tax that Jim and I are talking about building some legislation. That would be a true flat tax to be offered in the Congress after the turn of the year. But let me -- let me say I really do believe the American people deserve to know the debate that's going on right now is not even about tax cuts.
PENCE: Nobody -- nobody is talking about cutting taxes in Washington. All we're talking about is whether we're going to raise taxes on some Americans or whether we're going to allow Congress and the House and the Senate to have a fair up or down vote on extending all the current tax rates. We're arguing that that ought to be permanent, but you know let's let the House and the Senate work their will. Let's bring the DeMint/Pence bill to the floor and let's get on with it. And I like our chances. If we can get a vote on the floor, I think we could extend all these tax rates for the American people.
KING: Let me try to quickly get through a couple of other issues. I know Congressman Pence you have a vote you need to get to. The military brass, Secretary Gates, Admiral Mullen and some others came up to the Senate side today and said they believe the conditions are now in place and they have a detailed study that makes them confident it's time to repeal don't ask don't tell. Senator DeMint, to you first. A good idea?
DEMINT: No I don't think it's a good idea. As you know gays can serve mountain military now. The studies I've seen, the generals I've talked to who were free to express their opinions are saying this would be bad for morale, it would be an adjustment that's not necessary. Let's allow people to serve unless they want to make an issue of their sexuality. The military says that's not a good idea. This is not a good idea to come in and make a change like this. Morale is at an all-time high in the military and stretched thin. This is a political move and has nothing to do with the security of our country. We need to take that off the table.
KING: You in the same place, Congressman?
PENCE: I really am. Number one, there's no higher priority for the national government than to provide for the common defense. We ought not to use the American military as a backdrop for social experimentation or debating domestic policy issues. The focus ought to be on readiness, it ought to be on recruitment, it ought to be on retention, unite cohesion. I have to tell you, John, what I heard when I was in Afghanistan about a week ago, I was in a mess hall. I sat down completely unscripted conversation with about a dozen different soldiers on the front lines in operation enduring freedom. There were Democrats at the table, Republicans at the table. To my memory every single combat soldier said, go back to Congress and tell them don't do this. When you look at that pentagon study, there's a difference between the opinions expressed in that survey by people that are down range in combat versus other people serving in different roles in the military. So I don't believe the time has come to repeal don't ask don't tell. I really believe our soldiers that are at the tip of the spear know that. We ought to put their interests and the interests of our national security first.
KING: One last quick one here. Senator DeMint, your conservative PAC sent out an e-mail targeting Democrats who refused to vote to ban earmarks who ewer on the ballot in 2012. Saying this about them, "These senators are nice folks but they've ignored the will of the American people and they must be replaced with principled conservatives in 2012." The email targeted Democrats but as you know a number of Republicans refused to vote to ban earmarks. Let me focus on one of them, Dick Luger is on the ballot in 2012 from Indiana. Would you target him as well? Does he need to be replaced by a principled conservative?
DEMINT: I've let Dick know I'm going to keep my focus on Democrats, because compared to the Democrats every Republican in the Senate is a conservative. I think you're going to see a lot of these Republicans who are continuing to stress taking home the bacon, they're going to have primaries. John Koran our chairman of the Senate committee has warned them to expect the primaries. I'm their least worry right now. I think you'll see Americans continue to keep the pressure on parochial spending.
KING: Senator, you've told me in the past you're not running for president in 2012. What about the guy standing next to you. He's making moves and he might run for the Republican nomination. What do you think?
DEMINT: I think he might make a good president, so we need to keep our eye on him.
KING: Congressman Pence, I know you have a vote. We'll keep our eyes on him. Thank you for your time.