Ten Republican candidates for president debated on Thursday evening in South Carolina, the sixth of the 2016 cycle. The main event with the top seven contenders included many ideas to limit the size and scope of the federal government.
Here is a breakdown of the discussions involving how the candidates would reform federal agencies and their employees:
John Kasich: The Ohio governor called for a freeze of federal regulations, except for those related to health and safety.
Jeb Bush: The former Florida governor said the country does not need new gun regulations. He blamed the FBI’s inability to enforce existing law as responsible for last year’s mass shooting in Charleston, S.C. He later called for a major modernization of military procurement.
Bush also called for the National Security Agency to have a larger role in protecting information across the federal government.
Ted Cruz: The Texas senator advocated simplifying the tax code in order to eliminate the Internal Revenue Service. Cruz commented that tax returns should be filed on a postcard. He did not specify who would handle those post cards.
Chris Christie: The New Jersey governor said he would not raise taxes, but instead rely on better federal management to cut deficits: “We need to make this government run smarter and better.” Christie, as he has in every debate, touted his time as a federal employee, when he served in the Justice Department as a U.S. attorney.
He spoke to what he would look for in a cabinet member, saying he would ensure his attorney general would enforce all federal laws -- he accused President Obama’s AGs of ignoring them -- and that all law enforcement personnel are respected.
Ben Carson: The retired neurosurgeon also called for lower taxes, saying regulations amount to regressive taxation. He also called the government “evil.”
Marco Rubio: During a heated discussion on tax policy, the Florida senator warned against a “value added tax,” saying President Ronald Reagan rejected that because it would have added 20,000 employees at the Internal Revenue Service. He called the VAT a “blindfold” that obscures the true cost of government.
Before the top contenders took the stage, three presidential hopefuls polling in the low single digits participated in the so-called undercard debate. They laid out some of their issues with the federal bureaucracy.
Rick Santorum: The former Pennsylvania senator took on the federal civil service system directly, saying the incentives it creates are wrong.
“If you don’t do anything, you don’t get fired,” Santorum said. “It’s only if you do something and it goes wrong that you get fired. So they’re doing nothing.”
Santorum made the comments after hitting the government for not doing enough to prevent terrorism. Asked if federal agencies should work more closely with the private sector to root out terror suspects, the former senator said, “If the government were doing its job, we wouldn’t need the private sector.” He blamed the “layers and layers of bureaucracy” in government.
“One thing I’ve learned about the bureaucracy is that when a lot of people have authority,” he said, “nobody has authority.”
Carly Fiorina: The former technology executive disagreed with Santorum, saying the government must depend on the private sector.
“There’s one thing that bureaucracies don’t know how to do: innovate,” she said. Fiorina -- who speaks often of the need to reduce the size of the federal workforce -- blasted Obama’s gun measures, saying his decision to hire 230 new analysts and other staff to expand background checks involving the purchase of firearms was too late.
She also renewed her call for zero-based budgeting, saying federal agencies need to “examine every dollar” to determine where to cut.
Mike Huckabee: The former Arkansas governor also deplored Obama’s gun measures, saying the first place to start in reducing gun violence was for the Justice Department not to run “idiotic” operations like its much maligned “fast and furious” program.