Senate Republicans to Offer Balanced Budget Amendment

A group of “Republican senators are set to unveil a long-awaited constitutional amendment to require a yearly balanced budget,” The Hill reports.

The sweeping legislation, which calls for an annual spending cap and a legally mandated balanced budget, with some exceptions, will be unveiled Thursday by five GOP senators: Jon Kyl (Ariz.), John Cornyn (Texas), Orrin Hatch (Utah), Mike Lee (Utah) and Pat Toomey (Pa.). The proposed amendment goes beyond requiring a simple balanced budget each year, and seeks to enact a series of other fiscal reforms.

Under the proposal, the president would be forced to submit a balanced budget to Congress each year. But Congress would also face certain constraints in its work to pass the budget.

The amendment would mandate that total outlays each year could not exceed total receipts by the government, unless both the House and Senate agree to an excess in outlays by a two-thirds vote. Any tax increase would also be required to pass both houses with the same two-thirds supermajority.

The Republican proposal would also cap spending each fiscal year at 18 percent of gross domestic product, a provision that could be waived by Congress during a time of war, or by a three-fifths majority of the House and Senate in a time of other military conflict.

The amendment “would need to be approved by a two-thirds majority in the House and Senate, a tough climb especially because Democrats control the Senate.”

Even if lawmakers somehow managed to advance the amendment, three-fourths of the states would still have to ratify it for the amendment to become part of the Constitution.

Update: The press conference to unveil this proposal has been postponed. National Review reports that this announcement was delayed because Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) “wanted more consensus, according to sources familiar with the deliberations.”

One aide tells us that McConnell urged the members at the working-group to take more time building support for the measure within the entire conference before unveiling the proposal. “He argued that it will be more powerful if we are working with the House when we introduce the [balanced-budget amendment] and that it will be more powerful if we have all 47 Republicans on board, so we need to start gathering cosponsors.”

“[McConnell] wants something all senate Republicans can get behind,” says another aide. “The question is: is that possible? And how long do we keep working within this group before just moving forward on our own?” After today’s talk, the aide adds, “a bunch of senators wanted more discussions, so the news conference was postponed.”

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Filed under Budget, Constitutional Amendment

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