House Republicans Push for Balanced Budget Measure as Part of Debt Ceiling Deal
Disappointed in deficit-reduction talks at the White House, House Republicans are embarking on their own effort, promising to cut spending and raise the debt ceiling only if both chambers of Congress vote for a constitutional balanced-budget amendment bill in the coming days.
"We're going to bring a bill forward next week, otherwise known as the 'cut, cap and balance' bill, to provide a balanced approach, so that we can demonstrate that we are getting things under control," said House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va.
"The president wanted a plan, the country needs a plan and this is a very serious real plan," said Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah.
“The bill would first cut spending by $111 billion next year, then cap spending going forward to make sure that our outlays are less than 20 percent of our gross domestic product," Chaffetz explained.
But in a news conference at the White House Friday, President Obama dismissed the entire idea, saying "We don't need a constitutional amendment to do that; what we need to do is to do our jobs."
He did concede that the nation needs to get to the point of eventually balancing the budget. The Constitution allows for up to seven years for the states to vote on amendments, (three-fourths must approve for passage), so that is obviously not possible in the next few days. And the president focused on that as a reason to oppose it.
"And so this notion that we're going to go through a multi-year process instead of seizing the moment now and taking care of our problems is a typical Washington response," he said.
The public supports an amendment by a wide margin of 72-20 percent, according to a Fox News poll. If it meant cuts in Medicare or Social Security, only 31 percent favor it, with 63 percent against. And 62 percent turn against it if it were to mean tax increases.
The “cut cap and balance” plan wouldn't actually send the amendment to the states-- that would require a separate vote. But many Republicans insist on cut, cap and balance as a condition for raising the debt ceiling.
Chaffetz eyes widen as he makes clear how painful this process is for him.
"If they want a $2.4 trillion debt ceiling increase -- something I really, really don’t want to do," he emphasized, "then we're going to have to do something to change the way we spend money in this country."
A balanced budget amendment passed the House in 1995 and fell only one vote short in the Senate. Senate Republicans plan to take all this up next week -- both the immediate plan and separate legislation to send an amendment to the states. But that would require a two-thirds vote in both chambers. And many Democrats are likely to oppose it.