RSC Chairman Wants to See ‘Exact Language’ of BBA Before Deciding Whether to Support It

August 24, 2011 - 12:30 PM

(CNSNews.com) – Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), chairman of the Republican Study Committee, the caucus of House conservatives, wants to see the "exact language" of the balanced budget amendment Congress will vote on later this year before deciding whether to support it.

Under the terms of the law enacted earlier this month to increase the limit on the national debt, both houses of Congress are required to vote on a constitutional balanced budget amendment by the end of the year. The law, however, did not stipulate what language or provisions that balanced budget amendment would include.

“I believe it’s very important to include taxpayer protections like a spending cap and high hurdle for tax increases,” Jordan told CNSNews.com in a statement. “Every word matters in a Constitutional amendment, so I’ll have to see exact language before making my decision.”

Many conservatives in the House fear that Republican leaders may agree to vote on a stripped-down balanced budget amendment that requires Congress to balance the budget but does not cap spending as a percentage of GDP or require supermajorities to raise taxes.

They fear that an amendment of that nature, which might win the backing of some incumbent congressional liberals, would become a constitutional lever for sustaining big government via ever-escalating federal taxation.

Jordan supported a balanced budget amendment (BBA) in the Cut, Cap and Balance plan that was passed in the House in July by a 234-190 vote.. But that amendment would have capped federal spending at 19.9 percent of Gross Domestic Product and required two-thirds majorities in both chambers of Congress to approve a tax increase. The amendment also would have prohibited deficit spending unless there was a national security emergency or a supermajority of Congress voted for it.

Debt Showdown

Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, returns to his office after emergency legislation to avert a government default and cut federal spending passed a showdown vote in the House of Representatives, at the Capitol, in Washington, Monday, Aug. 1, 2011. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

On July 22, the Senate voted 51-46 to approve a procedural motion that blocked substantive consideration of the Cut, Cap and Balance bill in that body.

The debt-limit deal reached by President Barack Obama, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) requires that both chambers of Congress give an up or down vote to a balanced budget amendment before the end of the year.

However, it does not specify the language of the amendment. If two-thirds of Congress votes to approve a balanced budget amendment, it would then have to be ratified by 38 states, or three-fourths.

The House passed that debt-limit compromise by a 269-161 vote on Aug. 1. Jordan was one of 66 Republicans who voted against it. The plan passed in the Senate and was signed into law -- the Budget Control Act of 2011 -- by President Barack Obama on Aug. 2

Colin A. Hanna, president of the conservative group Let Freedom Ring, is planning a campaign to promote the balanced budget amendment, with it’s acronym. The campaign slogan will be “BBA or Bust.”

Hanna said a perfect amendment cannot be passed because it takes two-thirds of Congress to send the proposal to the states. However, for 2011, he thinks Republicans should demand the spending cap and the super-majority provision for tax hikes, and force members of Congress to go on the record.

“The more important question right now is the strategy for 2011. They should hold a vote in the House on a robust balanced budget amendment,” Hannah told CNSNews.com.

“That language is unlikely to pass in 2011,” he said. “But I think it will be an important political issue in the 2012 campaign. A negative vote on it this year will have negative consequences next year. When Congress is reconfigured after the 2012 election, we can make serious efforts for the strongest balanced budget amendment that can pass.”

The conservative Family Research Council would not support a BBA that failed to include the two provisions on taxes and spending, said Tom McClusky, vice president for government affairs for the organization.

Obama Debt Showdown

President Barack Obama delivers a statement in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2011, following the Senate's passing of the debt ceiling agreement. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

“That would be one we wouldn’t support,” he told CNSNews.com. “We were very reluctant to get involved in an issue that is seen out of our issues stratus. With the assurance of those caps and the restrictions on raising taxes, that was the main reason we got in.”

McClusky predicted a loss of support from conservatives in Congress if these provisions were dropped. But he also said a BBA that couldn’t pass would give some Democrats in red states or swing states a way to save themselves.

“There are a lot of Democrats you might want to target because of that vote, who know it’s not going to reach that threshold that’s needed – we saw this with the marriage amendment – those in tough races are allowed to vote to give them cover,” McClusky said. “But, if push came to shove, if a balanced budget amendment could pass, they would never vote for it.”