Conservatives’ Pledge: No Debt-Limit Hike Without Limits on Spending, Taxes

By Matt Cover | June 23, 2011 | 8:50 AM EDT

The 2012 budget is displayed at the U.S. Government Printing Office in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

( – Conservative Americans are sounding a call to “cut, cap and balance” the federal budget.

On Wednesday, leading conservatives from the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives joined a broad coalition of conservative activists to unveil a pledge that commits lawmakers to oppose any increase in the debt limit unless substantial cuts in spending are made to reduce the deficit next year, enforceable spending caps are enacted to put the federal government on a path to a balanced budget, and Congress passes a constitutional balanced budget amendment that permanently limits federal spending and requires a supermajority for enacting tax increases.
It is called the “Cut, Cap and Balance” pledge.
The pledge already has been signed by 11 senators, 14 House members and 16 candidates for federal office, including presidential candidates, Senate candidates, and House candidates.
“This is about the role of government,” Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) said at a Capitol Hill press conference unveiling the pledge. “When government is properly defined, the budget will be balanced.”

Ron Paul is one of three Republican presidential candidates who have signed the pledge so far. The other two are former Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota and former Godfather Pizza CEO Herman Cain.
The conservative activist groups say they will be mobilizing their members to ask legislators to sign the pledge.
“Our members are ready to fight through the summer,” said Americans for Prosperity President Tim Phillips.
“This is the ‘line-in-the-sand’ moment. No more games. No more short-term deals,” said David Bozell, executive director of ForAmerica. “The GOP will lose any and all credibility on matters of government spending if they do not pledge to cut the size of government, cap spending and balance the budget.” (ForAmerica is chaired by Brent Bozell, who is also president of the Media Research Center, the parent organization of
In 1995, the House passed a balanced budget amendment, but it fell just one vote short in the Senate.
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who sponsored the 1995 amendment, said today that Congress lacks the will to cut the necessary amount of spending, thus a balanced budget amendment is needed.
“We’re going to need people out there throughout this country to raise hell, because I’m absolutely convinced after 35 years in United States Senate that the Congress of the United States doesn’t have the will to live within its means without being straight-jacketed by a balanced budget constitutional amendment,” said Hatch.
Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) called the movement for the Cut, Cap, and Balance pledge the culmination of the Tea Party-led GOP victories in 2010. “In 2012,” said DeMint,
“we finish the job.”
The Cut, Cap and Balance initiative, DeMint said, “is key” to controlling what he described as out of control federal spending.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said the Cut, Cap, and Balance plan was “the only way” he would vote for a debt ceiling increase.
Colin Hanna, president of Let Freedom Ring, one of the main groups behind the pledge, said he had yet to hear from either Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) or Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) on the pledge.  Kyl and Cantor are currently negotiating with the White House on a prospective deal to lift the debt limit.
Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) said that raising the debt ceiling without strong spending reforms like a balanced budget amendment was “the most irresponsible thing we could do in Congress” this year.
The debt limit is the legal limit on how much debt the federal government can take out. The debt limit is currently $14.294 trillion. On May 16, the Treasury Department announced that it had reached that limit and began taking what it calls “extraordinary” measures to continue borrowing money but not technically go over the limit. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner informed Congress in a letter that day that these “extraordinary” measures will only give the Treasury enough room to keep the government financed at current spending levels through Aug. 2.
The CBO announced this month that the federal government ran a deficit of $929 billion in the first 8 months of this fiscal year (October 2010 through May 2011). In April, the CBO estimated that the federal deficit for the full fiscal 2011, which ends on Sept. 30, will be $1.4 trillion.
“Why can’t the government learn to be fiscally responsible when American families are trying to do exactly that on a daily basis?” said Concerned Women for America CEO Penny Nance.
“We are disgusted by government leaders who refuse to act responsibly and get our nation's financial house in order,” said Nance. “The taxpayers, including those taxpayers not yet born, are not the government’s ATM machine.  Running up a $14 trillion debt and then simply expecting to raise the debt ceiling in order to keep borrowing is outrageously irresponsible.”

Among other conservative groups backing the Cut, Cap and Balance pledge are Eagle Forum,  the Club for Growth, the Family Research Council Action, the National Taxpayers Union, FreedomWorks, the Independent Women’s Forum, the American Family Association, Tea Party Express, the 60 Plus Association, the National Tax Limitation Committee, Citizens United and Citizens Against Government Waste.
Neither House Speaker John Boehner (R.-Ohio) nor Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R.-Ky.) have signed the pledge.