U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint pledged Thursday he will fight efforts to raise the federal government's debt ceiling unless they come with spending reforms -- and he won't let Democrats pass it off as a GOP tantrum.
"Those who say, 'Let's act like adults and just vote for this thing,' need to be reminded it's those adults who got us $14 trillion in debt in the first place," DeMint said during a speech at the Technical College of the Lowcountry in Beaufort.
About 75 people came to see DeMint and ask questions during the hourlong event. The most popular query concerned a possible battle over the government's debt limit.
By law, the federal government is allowed to borrow no more than $14.3 trillion, and that figure is expected to be reached sometime this summer.
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DeMint intends to use the debt limit as a bargaining chip.
"I'm going to do everything I can to stop them from increasing the debt ceiling until they come up with some real controls on spending -- something they can't waive," DeMint said after the event. "This is the fourth time in two years that President Obama has asked us to raise the debt ceiling. We can't keep doing it."
A similar narrative about debt and spending unfolded two weeks ago when a late-night agreement between Republicans and Democrats narrowly averted a government shutdown.
DeMint said that agreement cut spending "such a minimal amount, it's embarrassing."
"Every time we come to a showdown like we did a couple weeks ago, it's like an alcoholic saying, 'I'm going to quit tomorrow, but just one more drink today,' " he said. "We've got to draw the line -- not just in sand, but in concrete -- to try to save our country."
Many of those who attended Thursday's event lingered afterward to shake hands with DeMint, offer words of encouragement or hint that he should run for president next year.
The conservative senator has deflected such talk before, but he didn't mince words this time, telling the audience that it would take a Biblical burning bush to convince him to enter the race.
"I think there are going to be some good Republican candidates out there," he said, "so just give them time to bloom."