DeMint warns: Balance budget or else

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) warned lawmakers they won't be reelected if they vote for a debt-ceiling increase without a balanced-budget amendment and serious across-the-board spending cuts.

Asked what would happen to Republicans who support a "clean" debt-ceiling increase, DeMint predicted they would be voted out of office.

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"I think, for the most part, they're gone. It would be the most toxic vote we could take," he said. 

"Based on what I can see around the country, not only are those individuals gone, but I would suspect the Republican Party would be set back many years," DeMint said in an interview with ABC News Friday.

That also applies to presidential candidates, he added. He said it was a litmus test for all 2012 White House contenders.

"I don't have many litmus tests, but this is one: Any candidate who doesn't understand that we need to balance the budget should not be president of the United States," he said.

DeMint, a favorite with the conservative Tea Party movement, has said that his coveted endorsement is available only to Republicans who sign a "Cut, Cap and Balance" pledge, which calls for spending cuts, spending caps and the passage of a balanced-budget amendment as a prerequisite for voting to raise the debt ceiling.

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Of the GOP presidential field, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, businessman Herman Cain and Rep. Ron Paul (Texas) have accepted the pledge. Former Sen. Rick Santorum (Pa.) plans to join them, according to a spokesman.

DeMint's comments come a day after House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) decided to stop participating in bipartisan negotiations on a debt-ceiling deal because, Cantor said, Democrats were demanding tax increases.