Republican senators push for balanced budget amendment
March 31st, 2011
08:57 PM ET
12 years ago

Republican senators push for balanced budget amendment

WASHINGTON (CNN) – More than a dozen Republican senators announced Thursday they would push for a constitutional amendment requiring Congress to pass an annual balanced budget.

"It's an historic day for the Republican Party. We all agree on something," Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, joked, as he spoke about the proposed amendment that has the support of all 47 Republican senators.

"A balanced budget amendment will make us do here what everybody has to do at home," Graham said during a news conference on Capitol Hill.

Previous attempts to pass a balanced budget amendment have failed, but backers hope they’ll fare better this year because of public concern over growing deficits.

The press conference was originally scheduled for earlier in March, but was postponed when Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, decided to push for a unanimous Republican front for the amendment.

The amendment would require a balanced budget, a two-thirds majority to raise taxes, and three-fifths to increase the debt limit. Additionally, the proposal would limit government spending to 18% of GDP, which is below the average of 21 percent over the last 41 years, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal-leaning think tank.

The Republican proposal does allow for exceptions to a balanced budget in times of war or military conflicts, but does not allow for an exception in times of economic crisis. Critics argue that would mean it would be more difficult to pass a stimulus program during a recession.

"It is about the most irresponsible action imaginable," said Norman Ornstein, a resident scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute. "It would virtually ensure that an economic downturn would end up as a deep depression, by erasing any real ability of the government to pursue countercyclical fiscal policies and in fact demanding the opposite, at the worst possible time.”

The hurdles for adopting a constitutional amendment are high. Two-thirds of the House and Senate must vote in favor of an amendment and then at least 38 states must ratify it.

The constitution has only been amended 27 times, most recently in 1992.

CNN’s Jeanne Sahadi contributed to this report.

Filed under: Budget • GOP • Senate
soundoff (24 Responses)
  1. ThinkAgain

    Always the exception for war ... no exceptions for economic crisis, natural disasters, or anything else.

    If this isn't proof that the endgame for the Republican party is to turn our country into a third-world nation held hostage by the 400 wealthiest families, I don't know what is ...

    March 31, 2011 09:00 pm at 9:00 pm |
  2. Bill from GA

    Would have been nice to have had this in 2000, when we had a balanced budget to start from.

    March 31, 2011 09:13 pm at 9:13 pm |
  3. Cali. Conserv.

    When the democrat caucus states for democrats to use the word "extreme: to describe their opponents views and even describe opponents personally how can there be any reasonable debate?


    March 31, 2011 09:24 pm at 9:24 pm |
  4. Bill

    All the stimulus program will yield is more debt.

    March 31, 2011 09:29 pm at 9:29 pm |
  5. one voice

    Our Country was doing great when Clinton left office(a surplus)and Bush TANKED EVERY ASPECT OF OUR COUNTRY(TWO WARS(NO WMD), 750,000 JOBS BEING LOST PER MONTH, MORTGAGE CRISIS, STOCK MARKET CRASH and you CLOWNS that voted for Bush not only once but TWICE will continue to go down that same road. WAKE UP!!!

    March 31, 2011 09:29 pm at 9:29 pm |
  6. Liberal4Obama

    It takes a republican to do something this stupid, yes it sounds nice, a balanced budget, until crap hits the fan and then you have to swim with both hands and legs tied and with an anvil wrapped around your neck.

    March 31, 2011 09:30 pm at 9:30 pm |
  7. one voice

    This CORPORATE SHILL rubber stamped EVERY SINGLE BILL the RIP OFF BUSH put forward. You want me to follow his lead? NOT

    March 31, 2011 09:32 pm at 9:32 pm |
  8. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    So, in a time of crisis that no one agrees on, we would have a government that wouldn't and couldn't do anything... I don't think that I would really want that.

    March 31, 2011 09:52 pm at 9:52 pm |
  9. Sasha

    Why is it that Republicans are only concerned about deficits when they're in the minority?

    March 31, 2011 10:04 pm at 10:04 pm |
  10. Matthew Lee

    keynesian economics called, they said what appears to be a generally good idea on the surface and revealed it for how stupid it really is. This means that during a recession the only means of fixing the economy is by using the Fed, which is not capable of getting us out of a large recession. It also means that taxes will never be raised, we will slip farther and farther behind the rest of the developed world as an absurd percentage of our spending will go towards military (18% of GDP, yet you and I know they wont touch military spending what so ever). This would be one of the most effective means of ruining the U.S. gov't's ability to correct economic problems, and its passage would be detrimental to the vast majority of Americans.

    March 31, 2011 10:19 pm at 10:19 pm |
  11. Bill

    It's hard to get 2/3 of either chamber to agree what day it is. How do they expect to get the votes?

    March 31, 2011 10:32 pm at 10:32 pm |
  12. lgny

    While the goal is reasonable, it's very dangerous to lock it into a Constitutional amendment. By so doing, it locks out options that may someday be needed in some future time.

    Govt should have options - not be tied into corners.

    March 31, 2011 10:35 pm at 10:35 pm |
  13. SA in OO

    I'm not a Republican, and hold more liberal positions on most issues.

    That said I think we need to have a serious talk about some sort of mechanism to force congress to work within the a budget. There is probably truth to the comment that a Balanced Budget Amendment is not the thing to do – for reasons that few reading this article could understand the real implications of.

    BUT it's also true that congressmen (and women) can't stop themselves from voting us into the poor house. AND truth be told we (the voting public) may say we want fiscal responsibility at the federal level, we just don't want to make any of the personal sacrifices that it would require. WE ARE THE PROBLEM, and the congress is too week kneed to call us out on it.


    March 31, 2011 10:52 pm at 10:52 pm |
  14. sara

    Where's the JOBS you promised!!!!?

    March 31, 2011 11:41 pm at 11:41 pm |
  15. Aaron

    It's a crying shame the hypocrites didn't scream for a balanced budget while they and Bush spent money like there was no tomorrow.

    April 1, 2011 12:01 am at 12:01 am |
  16. todd

    Yeah, you had 6 years to do this when you had the majority and Bush was president.

    Meanwhile, how are those jobs coming, GOP?

    April 1, 2011 12:11 am at 12:11 am |
  17. rs

    Sure, right after they pass one more tax break for the rich.... fool me once, shame on me....

    April 1, 2011 12:32 am at 12:32 am |
  18. ChesterVA-Nick

    Would this prevent Congress, the President, and Vice President from recieving their compensation until the budget has been balanced – and also prevent them from receiving any back pay from that time period??? If so, I'm all for it!

    April 1, 2011 12:57 am at 12:57 am |
  19. Frankie G

    I think if congress and the senate are so worried about budget cuts they should as elected officials along with elected officials throughout the country need to give up their pay and quit spending the tax payers money for their travel and dining expenses as well as their personal expenses. I personally think elected officials should not be paid

    April 1, 2011 01:14 am at 1:14 am |
  20. CarolO

    They want a balanced budget on the backs of every working man and woman and the poor. They don't seem to think the rich cooperations should have to pay a thing and all the while the GOP is hacking off the heads of the workers, they are thinking of more ways to keep their rich friends happy. They approved 130 million every year to cotton farmers in Brazil but took federal money away for US farmers. Closing schools, breaking unions, taxing pensions, closing womens clinics, closing prisons, reducing border security......on and on it goes.

    April 1, 2011 02:14 am at 2:14 am |
  21. John

    Any serious balanced budget has to include raising taxes back to the level before Bush.

    April 1, 2011 02:26 am at 2:26 am |
  22. J.V.Hodgson

    Are these guys serious? If they are they fly in the face of every Economist Living or dead and is a recipe for diaster. Note the War exception, give me a break; no get the message Republicans want America to be at war!!Any Senator Republican or Democrat who votes for this Is marginally insane and needs to be expunged from any position in governance as soon as possible.

    April 1, 2011 02:52 am at 2:52 am |
  23. David

    Republicans are so into our "founding fathers" that one would think they would listen to them on balanced budgets. Hamilton warned against them as a demogogery evil that could destroy the economy. the federal budget is not comparable to a family budget so Republicans, please stop the stupid analogy. You are only fooling dumb people. Hmmmm ?

    April 1, 2011 07:54 am at 7:54 am |
  24. NameWillRam1

    These Gophers sure know how to destroy America!, and this states 1 exception " In times of War or Military Conflicts" well this goes to show that Bush's never ending War in Afghanistan will still raise the deficit while the Poor and Middle Classes. Who will suffer as well the increase numbers of Unemployment. Way to Go you Idiots, and you know this will never pass!.

    April 1, 2011 08:00 am at 8:00 am |