Bal­anced bud­get amend­ment gets big Repub­li­can push

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY SEAN LENGELL

Capi­tol Hill Repub­li­cans have amped up their push for a bal­anced bud­get amend­ment to the Con­sti­tu­tion, a move that comes as Congress and the White House are strug­gling to find com­mon ground to re­duce the nation’s bal­loon­ing deficit.

Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell, Ken­tucky Repub­li­can, on June 29 in­voked a par­lia­men­tary pro­ce­dure to fast-track a bal­anced bud­get amend­ment pro­posal that has the sup­port of all 47 Se­nate Repub­li­cans.

But GOP lead­ers will have a much tougher time woo­ing enough Democrats, who com­plain the Repub­li­can plan would help the wealthy.

Mr. McCon­nell called a bal­anced bud­get amend­ment a “good first step” to­ward curb­ing gov­ern­ment spend­ing and re­duc­ing the deficit.

“If this week has shown us any­thing it’s that the Amer­i­can peo­ple can’t wait on Democrats to do the right thing when it comes to spend­ing and debt and putting us on a path to bal­ance the bud­get,” the mi­nor­ity leader said.

The Repub­li­can plan would re­quire Congress to bal­ance the fed­eral bud­get each year, cap spend­ing at 18 per­cent of the gross do­mes­tic prod­uct, re­quire a two-thirds vote of the House and Se­nate to in­crease taxes and re­quire a three-fifths ma­jor­ity vote in both cham­bers to raise the debt limit.

“Forty-nine states are re­quired to bal­ance their bud­gets. In­di­vid­u­als are re­quired to bal­ance their bud­gets. Why shouldn’t the fed­eral gov­ern­ment?” said Sen. Or­rin G. Hatch, Utah Repub­li­can. “We’ve got to have a strait­jacket that will get Congress to do what it re­ally should do.”

House Repub­li­can lead­ers two weeks ago said they will in­tro­duce in July their own pro­posal for a con­sti­tu­tional amend­ment to bal­ance the bud­get.

Repub­li­cans have sug­gested a bal­anced bud­get amend­ment could be part of a com­pro­mise deal to raise the nation’s credit limit, an is­sue that has bit­terly di­vided the two par­ties.

But Democrats say the GOP pro­pos­als would ben­e­fit the wealthy at the ex­pense of mid­dle-in­come Amer­i­cans.

While the GOP plans would re­quire a su­per­ma­jor­ity in both houses of Congress to in­crease taxes, they call for only a sim­ple ma­jor­ity vote for tax cuts, a sce­nario Democrats say would make im­por­tant en­ti­tle­ment pro­grams such as Medi­care easy tar­gets for cuts.

“The bal­anced bud­get amend­ment [Se­nate Repub­li­cans] are in­tro­duc­ing, I’m told, is a real break for re­ally wealthy peo­ple, be­cause it would be much harder for them to chip in their fair share,” said Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Demo­crat.

The bal­anced bud­get de­bate comes as Democrats and Repub­li­cans are locked in a feud on how best to raise the $14.3 tril­lion debt ceil­ing, the legal limit on how much the fed­eral gov­ern­ment can bor­row to pay for its op­er­a­tions and debt obli­ga­tions.

Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Ti­mothy F. Gei­th­ner says the debt limit must be in­creased by Aug. 2 or the gov­ern­ment risks de­fault­ing on its loans, a sce­nario he says could trig­ger an­other fi­nan­cial cri­sis.

Repub­li­can lead­ers, pressed by a large con­tin­gent of new tea party-backed mem­bers, have de­manded any deal in­clude spend­ing cuts to equal the amount the debt ceil­ing is raised, at least $2 tril­lion. And they in­sist no taxes be in­creased.

Democrats, mean­while, want any deal to in­clude the clos­ing of cer­tain cor­po­rate tax loop­holes, which Repub­li­cans say is noth­ing more than a tax in­crease on the busi­ness com­mu­nity.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

“If this week has shown us any­thing it’s that the Amer­i­can peo­ple can’t wait on Democrats to do the right thing when it comes to spend­ing and debt and putting us on a path to bal­ance the bud­get,” said Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Sen. Mitch McCon­nell, Ken­tucky Repub­li­can. Sen. Or­rin G. Hatch, Utah Repub­li­can (left), also spoke in fa­vor of a bal­anced bud­get amend­ment.

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