Republicans Call for Balanced Budget Amendment

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," April 25, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.



SEN. RAND PAUL, R. - KENT.: I will vote to raise the debt ceiling if we pass a balanced budget amendment to the constitution. I'm willing to compromise. If he'll just call me, I'm willing to compromise.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: T he issue here is the debt ceiling has to be raised. And it cannot be held hostage to a process that is very complicated and difficult.


JUAN WILLIAMS, SENIOR EDITOR, THE HILL: Senator Rand Paul and White House spokesman Jay Carney eng aging in the growing debate, whether a balanced budget amendment should be part of any deal to raise the debt limit.

Before the break we asked you will such an amendment be added to the constitution. 45 percent said yes, 55 percent said no. And we're back now with our panel. Before we get to the balanced budget amendment, Charles, more threats from Republicans over the weekend. They're not going to vote for a -- increasing the debt limit unless they see big spending cuts or structural changes to the budget. Where are we headed on this?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: There will be a deal, of course, in the end. But I think it's not going to happen right away as the administration would like. It's not going to be Armageddon at midnight, it will take a while before the effects are felt. So there's going to be a negotiation period after the initial proposal and something will get done.

CHRIS WALLACE, ANCHOR: Jonah, one of the things that Republicans and we just heard Rand Paul talk about, but also Jim DeMint is really leading the fight, balanced budget amendment as part of any deal, and he says he flatly will oppose it and try to tie the Senate in knots. What do you think of that?

JONAH GOLDBERG, NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE: I'm less excited about a balanced budget amendment solely because as Brit was saying earlier there's a lot of strings and bells and whistles involved with that.

But I have absolutely no problem - first of all, the administration is just being dishonest about the idea that somehow we're gonna default on our debt if we don't raise the debt limit immediately. In 1985, we took three months, in 2002 it took four-and-a-half months. In 1995, we took four and a half months. We always take a lot of time to figure out how to do the debt ceiling thing. It doesn't mean automatic default. And why have a debt limit at all if you're not gonna have strings attached to it. Why not just raise it to 100 quadrillion dollars, right? And if -- the limit is supposed to have some sort of disciplining effect. And I see nothing wrong if you're spending wildly to cut up someone's credit cards and put them on a payment plan.


WILLIAMS: Well I mean first of all, this conversation just strikes me as why people get so frustrated with Washington politics. It is totally out of touch with reality. Reality is not, that, oh, we can push the deadline three months and it's not really going to have any impact, we'll still be paying off. No the consequences for Wall Street and our very fragile economy would be horrific. It would be terrible. And Wall Street has communicated this very loudly to both sides of the aisle. Gentlemen, wake up, stop playing games.

The second thing to say is, if -- when you raise the debt limit, it really does not mean that you somehow, therefore, are controlling spending. This has to do with repaying existing debt. And that's what we're talking about, allowing confidence in U.S. debts to hold steady so the bond market doesn't go crazy, inflation doesn't go crazy and the dollar doesn't get weaker. This is in all of our best interest.

WALLACE: Charles, I want to get your take on the idea. Because you certainly favor some kind of limits, whether it's spending limits, spending caps, whatever. What do you think of the idea of the balanced budget amendment?

KRAUTHAMMER: It's a terrible idea for one reason. For one reason. It will take a long time to be enacted. It doesn't happen overnight. You need three-quarters of the states, and that means -- and there are many states who get a lot of money from the feds who may oppose it. So there's no guarantee it will ever pass. It doesn't depend only on Washington. And by the time that it passes, you and I will be getting our checks in yuan or in pesos.

Ya know, it's got to be done now. And here is how you do it. It's not that difficult, you put structural constraints on spending. Not on debt but on spending. Which would mean, that it requires say two-thirds of the House and the Senate to overturn these restraints. Now you would counter and say yes, but the majority could at any point change that law. But as long as the Republicans retain control of one House it can't be overturned. I would require the Democrats to sweep the presidency, the House and the Senate to overturn that. In other words, it would be in place indefinitely in the absence of such a sweep. That would be real spending restraints; it would be instituted immediately; far superior to a balanced budget amendment.

WALLACE: Let me throw one more thing in this. And that is the fact that while Congress is on recess, at least the staff of the called "Gang of Six," that bipartisan three Republicans and three Democrats in the Senate are talking. And they say, that they think they will have a plan, sometime shortly after Congress resumes next week. A long-term deficit reduction plan, Jonah how does that fit into all this?

GOLDBERG: I don't know until we see what the plan is. The plans are sprouting up like kudzu all over the place these days. Clearly, I actually think there is room, right now, for a Gang of Six plan if it really does congeal and makes sense. Because, I think, there are a lot of people looking for escape clause. They're looking for an excuse to find some common ground on this, and I think it's in a lot of people's interest. But it depends if that creature can actually be built. I don't know that it can.


WILLIAMS: I think that is the great hope on both sides. I think a lot of people who feel, as if, publically, it's difficult right now given the static around it, to say I'm interested in common ground. And the way that you do it, the hope had been the debt commission. Obama screwed that up. So now the thing is, oh let's go with the Gang of Six. And the Gang of Six will say to ya know,[INAUDIBLE] Republican people there, there's Chambliss and [INAUDIBLE] they're gonna say, yes, this is where we can make a deal and it is the great hope. I don't think it's like kudzu, but I understand what you mean that there are lots of deals out there, but this is the big ticket.

WALLACE: In 15 seconds. What do you --

KRAUTHAMMER: It can't happen. Because any plan would have a zillion moving parts, or a quadrillion moving parts, as you said. Nobody's gonna be able to work it in out during the negotiations on the ceiling. You've got to have a simple straight spending cap. Do that now and the plan later.

WALLACE: That is it for panel. But stay tuned to see how President Obama helps one little girl celebrate a White House tradition.

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