Archive for Monday, August 22, 2011

GOP pushing balanced budget amendment

August 22, 2011


— As a “supercommittee” tries to find $1.5 trillion in new deficit cuts this fall, Republicans will be pressing a far more ambitious goal: passing an amendment to the Constitution to require a balanced federal budget.

The idea is being pushed most forcefully by conservative activists eager to shrink the government and its spending but disappointed with the results they’ve achieved so far in Washington, where Democrats control both the White House and the Senate.

“Spending cuts and caps are steps in the right direction,” said Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas. But a balanced budget amendment is “the only permanent solution to control government spending and end our nation’s spending-driven debt crisis,” Sessions said.

House GOP leaders — short of the two-thirds margin required to pass the amendment — have held off scheduling a vote. But both House and Senate are required to hold votes this fall as one of the conditions of recently enacted legislation to raise the government’s borrowing cap.

It’s a decidedly uphill battle, even though Republicans control the House with larger numbers than they had in 1995, when a balanced budget amendment sailed through the chamber with 300 votes. It fell just one supporter short of the required two-thirds margin in the Senate.

There appear to be fewer Democratic backers now than there were in 1995, when 72 House Democrats voted for the amendment. For starters, there are far fewer southern white conservative and moderate Democrats in the House than there were back then.

And Republicans have made the task more difficult by pushing a significantly more stringent tea party-backed version of the amendment now than they did in 1995. The new version would virtually make it impossible for future Congresses to raise taxes by requiring a two-thirds vote in both the House and Senate. It also would force a huge shrinking of government programs by capping spending at 18 percent of the nation’s total economic output each year. This year, government spending is running about 25 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP), the widest measure of the U.S. economy.

Democrats won’t back the stricter version. But if House leaders also press a vote on the 1995 version, which permits tax increases by a simple majority vote, they’ll run into opposition from conservative activists like Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform, who say the old version is a recipe for higher taxes.

“There are lots of reasons not to like the original balanced budget amendment,” Norquist said, warning that it could lead to tax increases imposed by lawmakers squeamish about cutting spending, or even by federal courts.

Given the enormity of the nation’s fiscal gap, future Congresses facing a balanced-budget mandate would surely consider tax increases as a way to ease cuts to defense, Social Security, Medicare and other domestic programs.

Even tea party-driven House Republicans shunned such cuts earlier this year when adopting a nonbinding GOP budget blueprint that forecast deficits in the $400 billion range for most of the decade. Republican decided against offering a balanced budget because it would have forced cuts on current recipients of Medicare and Social Security benefits.

Lawmakers did have an opportunity to vote for balancing the budget in the form of a much stiffer budget plan offered by the conservative Republican Study Committee, which promised a balanced ledger by the end of the decade.

That balanced-budget plan, however, won only 119 votes in the 435-member House in April and a majority of Republicans opposed it. The balanced-budget blueprint relied on massive cuts to domestic programs like health care and food aid for the poor. It also featured politically implausible proposals like raising the eligibility age for full Social Security retirement benefits to 70.

In 1995, the failure of the balanced budget amendment to pass the Senate propelled then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., to engineer congressional passage of a seven-year balanced-budget plan. It fell prey to a veto by President Bill Clinton but set the stage for a bipartisan balanced budget two years later.

The so-called supercommittee is required to produce cuts in the range of $1.2 trillion to $1.5 trillion — too small to satisfy the tea party-driven House. So a vote on a balanced budget amendment is an opportunity to take a tougher stand, even as lawmakers are spared difficult votes on concrete proposals to cut spending further. Should the amendment win two-thirds votes in both the House and Senate, that would negate the requirement for the supercommittee’s deficit cuts or an alternative $1.2 trillion in automatic cuts if the panel fails to find a compromise or its recommendation is rejected by Congress.

The proposed amendment also is an opportunity for Democrats to cast a tough-on-spending vote. Sixteen House Democrats have signed on to the version that passed the House in 1995. So far, Rep. Mike McIntyre of North Carolina is the only Democrat to sign on to the tea party-backed version requiring two-thirds supermajorities in the House and Senate to raise taxes.

It would take 48 Democratic votes to pass either amendment, assuming that all 240 House Republicans vote for it as well.


oldbaldguy 6 years, 8 months ago

Bad idea. Look what happened in California

Paul R Getto 6 years, 8 months ago

Not practical, but another chimera the R's pursue. This is similar to Kobach's hunt for illegal, good headlines but a waste of time. If they wanted to balance the budget they could. I am touched by their faith that the courts could somehow save them from overspending. The legal thickets alone would make Uncle Remus proud. A constitutional straight jacket that won't work sounds much better than good governance or acting like statesmen instead of wild-eyed ideologues. Take some deep breaths, committee. (ps: I bet, if challenged, the committee itself is unconstitutional. Newt was right...ditch this abomination and make them have open committee hearings to raise taxes and/or cut programs in the open where people can see what they are doing.)

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 8 months ago

"The major problem will be the element of people that demand other people's money to survive."

And almost all of them work on Wall Street and in corporate board rooms.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 8 months ago

Simple is not the same as simplistic. And given your preference for the latter, I'm surprised you don't understand that.

Paul R Getto 6 years, 8 months ago

AML: You may be right. I would ask, if we had a constitutional amendment to 'force' a balanced budget, who would have standing to sue on constitutional grounds if it were not balanced? Unless there is an answer to that question, and there is a true definition of what balanced means on any given day, this movement is a smokescreen because neither side really wants to make this work, only so score points. BTW: When I mentioned ideologues, that includes the nuts on both ends of the spectrum. The 80% or so in the middle, I believe, just want good governance.

usnsnp 6 years, 8 months ago

what happins if there is a national disaster and you could not get 2/3 vote for some reason. Guess you would just shrug your sholders and say tough s=== .

Richard Heckler 6 years, 8 months ago

This repub party have been screaming balanced budgets for 31 years yet not one has surfaced. These folks are full of crap.

Lordy why does there need to be an amendent. Eisenhower did so without an amendment.

Let's see what repubs do with greater consistency. Repubs do tax breaks,wreck financial institutions,put millions out of work,wreck retirement plans and wreck medical insurance plans. How in the world can a balanced budget come from that?

Repubs represent wreckanomics not balanced budgets as a matter of policy!

  1. TABOR is Coming by Grover Norquist and Koch Bros sells out state governments

  2. The Reagan/Bush Savings and Loan Heist(Cost taxpayers $1.4 trillion)

  3. Wall Street Bank Fraud on Consumers under Bush/Cheney sent the economy out the window costing taxpayers many many $$$ trillions and millions of jobs.

  4. ONLY 3 financial institutions instead of several were at risk so why $700 billion in bail out money?

Tax cuts which do nothing to make an economy strong or produce jobs.

  1. Still A Bad Idea – Bush Tax Cuts - The ENTITLEMENT program for the wealthy at the expense of the middle class

In the end big debt and super duper bailouts were the results which does not seem to bother Republicans, as long as they are in power.

In fact, by the time the second Bush left office, the national debt had grown to $12.1 trillion:

  • Over half of that amount had been created by Bush’s tax cuts for the very wealthy.

  • Another 30% of the national debt had been created by the tax cuts for the wealthy under Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

• Fully 81% of the national debt was created by just these three Republican Presidents.

Flap Doodle 6 years, 8 months ago

Where have I seen all those links before? Oh, wait, it was right here on this award-winning website dozens and dozens of time in the last month.

oldbaldguy 6 years, 8 months ago

Once again bad idea. What we really need is leadership at the national level that actually wants this nation to survive. Not shills for Wall Street or Unions.

Flap Doodle 6 years, 8 months ago

In other news: "In 31 months of Barack Obama’s presidency, according to the Treasury and CBS News, the US has added $4 trillion to its national debt. That approaches the presidential record set by George W. Bush of $4.9 trillion, but there’s a catch to that. Bush set that record in two terms — in 96 months: The latest posting by the Treasury Department shows the national debt has now increased $4 trillion on President Obama’s watch. The debt was $10.626 trillion on the day Mr. Obama took office. The latest calculation from Treasury shows the debt has now hit $14.639 trillion. It’s the most rapid increase in the debt under any U.S. president. The national debt increased $4.9 trillion during the eight-year presidency of George W. Bush. The debt now is rising at a pace to surpass that amount during Mr. Obama’s four-year term. Let’s cast this by month rather than by year. Bush added an average of $51 billion a month to the national debt. In his 31 months in office, Obama has added to the national debt at an average monthly rate of $129 billion. That is 152% more per month than Obama’s predecessor...."

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