GOP intensifies push for a balanced budget amendment. Why now?
Republicans in Congress want a vote on a balanced budget amendment to the US Constitution by mid-July. It would precede any vote to raise the national debt limit.
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House Republicans say they will bring to the floor their own version of a balanced budget amendment before a vote to raise the debt ceiling. The House version would require that the government balance its budget every year, limit spending to 20 percent of gross domestic product, and raise taxes only with consent of a three-fifths supermajority. The Senate GOP proposal would limit spending to 18 percent of GDP and require a two-thirds supermajority to raise taxes.
That threshold makes it “virtually impossible to raise revenues,” including closing tax loopholes, according to a June 6 report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a research group that assesses the impact of fiscal policy on low- and moderate-income households.
Last week, some 40 conservative groups launched a drive to get candidates for federal office to commit to refusing to vote for a debt limit increase unless a constitutional balanced budget amendment, along with spending cuts and caps, is part of the deal.
“We can’t keep taking out new credit cards to pay off the ones we’ve maxed out,” said Sen. Jim DeMint (R) of South Carolina in a statement on Wednesday. “It’s time to pass a balanced budget amendment and force Washington to stop spending more than we’re taking in.”
Senator DeMint is one of 12 GOP senators to have signed a pledge not to vote to increase the national debt limit without also passing a balanced budget amendment. That means 35 Republican senators have not signed such a pledge.
Senate Democrats say they are seeing other rifts in GOP ranks that could help produce a deal on raising the country's debt limit. So far, GOP leaders have drawn a line on taxes. But 34 Republicans, including Senate leader McConnell, last week voted to end subsidies for the ethanol industry.
“It makes no sense for leader McConnell to, on the one hand, say he agrees that ethanol subsidies are wasteful but then … stick to an ideological, way-out-there principle that we can’t eliminate that subsidy in the debt-limit deal,” said Sen. Charles Schumer (D) of New York at a briefing with reporters Wednesday.
"We're hitting crunch time in these debt-ceiling talks. If we're going to reach a grand bargain, neither side can cling to its ideological positions any longer," he said.
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