Balanced Budget Amendment Without Spending Cap Will Lose GOP Senate Votes, Says Sen. Lee

November 14, 2011 - 10:28 AM
Sen. Mike Lee

Sen. Mike Lee (R.-Utah)

(CNSNews.com) - Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, who is the sponsor of a balanced budget amendment that caps spending at 18 percent of Gross Domestic Product and requires two-thirds majorities in both houses of Congress to increase taxes, says he believes that a balanced budget amendment that does not include those two provisions would lose Republican votes in the Senate.

As of now, all 47 Republican senators support Lee’s balanced budget amendment with its cap on spending and supermajority requirement for tax increases.

The House Republican leadership, however, has not ruled out voting on a balanced budget amendment that does not cap spending as a percentage of GDP and does not require super majorities in both houses to increase taxes.

Under the terms of the debt-limit deal negotiated in August between President Barack Obama and congressional Republican leaders, both houses of Congress must vote on a balanced budget amendment by the end of this year. However, the deal did not specify what type of balanced budget amendment Congress needed to consider.

“We’ve got 47 Republicans in the Senate,” Lee said in an interview with CNSNews.com's “Online With Terry Jeffrey.” “All 47 members of the Republican caucus in the Senate are behind a single proposal. And I’ll tell you, we could not have gotten that type of unanimity within the Republican caucus in the Senate without those provisions--without requiring a super majority to raise taxes and without a percentage-of-GDP cap.

“So, I think it would be unwise, given that unanimous support that we’ve got there, for us to back away from those,” said Sen. Lee. “We don’t want as Republicans to negotiate against ourselves.”

Lee said that his version of the balanced budget amendment—with an 18-percent-of-GDP cap on federal spending and a two-thirds majority requirement for tax increases—is the only one with significant support in the Senate.

“Currently, this is the only one in the senate that has garnered a significant number of votes anywhere close to 47,” said Lee. “So this needs to come up for a vote, this version of this bill. If people want to vote against that and then face their constituents, they’ll do it at their own peril.”

Lee said he believes his amendment will win votes not only from the 47 Senate Republican who already support it, but also from some Senate Democrats.

“I suspect we’ll get some Democrats as well because those Democrats will not want to face their constituents and say, ‘Sorry, I just can’t require Congress to spend no more than it takes in each year,’” said Lee.

Lee reiterated his belief that the balanced budget amendment would lose the support of some Senate Republicans if it was stripped of the spending cap and supermajority requirement.

“I’m quite confident that we could not have gotten all 47 Republicans behind it if we had not had either of those provisions in there,” said Lee.

Lee said that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R.-Ky.) is committed to getting a vote on the type of balanced budget amendment Lee has sponsored with its spending cap and the supermajority requirement for tax increases.

“Yes, and he’s committed to getting us a vote on that this year,” said Lee.

Last month, CNSNews.com asked House Speaker Boehner if the House Republican leadership had ruled out voting on a balanced budget amendment that did not cap spending and require supermajorities to increase taxes. Boehner indicated that the leadership had not ruled that out.

“As we approach this vote, the [majority] leader and I are going to listen to our members about which version they would want us to vote on, and we’ve got no decision yet, but we’re going to work with our members to make that decision,” said Boehner.

Many conservatives have argued that a balanced budget amendment that does not cap federal spending and require supermajorities to increase taxes will be a mechanism for driving federal spending and federal taxes higher.

“It would be used by those who seek to have an expanded government and increased taxes to make it mandatory to increase taxes,” former Attorney General Edwin Meese told CNSNews.com last month. “It would make it much easier to raise taxes, and that’s why the important thing is to have a protection, for example, that it would take two-thirds of both houses in order to increase taxes … and, likewise, that there be some sort of a cap on expenditures, perhaps in relation to Gross Domestic Product."

In addition to being the Senate sponsor of a balanced budget amendment that caps spending and requires supermajorities to increase taxes, Sen. Lee has also written a book about the issue: "The Freedom Agenda: Why a Balanced Budget Amendment Is Necessary to Restore Constitutional Government."