Franks Backs BBA Even Without Spending Cap or Supermajority for Tax Hikes

By Fred Lucas | August 23, 2011 | 5:00 PM EDT

Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) ( Starr)

( - Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) said he would vote for a balanced budget amendment (BBA) even if it does not include a spending cap or require a super-majority to increase taxes.

He added that he sees an upside to the House passing such an amendment, even if the Senate does not follow suit.

“Well, I guess it depends on where we start but … I would like the strongest balanced budget amendment we could get,” Franks said. “But if all we have, if all we could get, if the only thing that we could get would simply be a requirement that we cannot borrow from our future generations and deficit-spend and put this country deeper and deeper in unsustainable debt. If that is the only thing the balanced budget amendment did, that alone would probably save the country at least economically.”

Franks said three-fourths of the public supports a BBA, and he is confident that it will pass in the House of Representatives this year. While he does not expect the Senate to pass it, he believes there will be consequences for anyone who votes against it.

“As long as this president is in office, I mean, of course there’s no, there’s no requirement for him to sign, you know, our effort to send a balanced budget amendment to the states,” said Franks. “But I truly believe that people vastly underestimate the number of votes that we could get.”

“I believe this will pass in the House, even now, with the two-thirds margin, yes, I do,” he said. “Simply because there’s enough Democrats there that know that if they vote no on this, they won’t be in office any more because this is a 75 percent issue [of support] with the public.”

Franks said the public is increasingly aware of the threat that out-of-control deficits and debt pose to the country and to their children.

“So the political dynamics are quite robust,” he said. “In some ways, the best thing that could happen to us is if all the Democrats voted no. Then we would have a Congress next time that would be strong enough to get it done.”

Franks said a vote on a balanced budget vote can do two things: “It can either pass and save the country. Or, it can wipe out a bunch of Democrats in both the House and the Senate that are foolish enough to vote against it.”

The actual language of the balanced budget amendment that Congress will vote on before the end of the year has not yet been determined. However, many conservatives fear that Republican leaders may agree to vote on a stripped-down amendment that requires Congress to balance the budget but does not cap spending as a percentage of GDP or require supermajorities to raise taxes.

Conservatives also are concerned 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.

When the Republican-controlled House approved the cut, cap and balance plan on July 19 in 234-190 vote, it included a version of the balanced budget amendment to cap federal spending at 19.9 percent of GDP. Leaders behind the initative originally sought to hold federal spending to 18 percent of GDP.

The version of the balanced budget amendment in the cut, cap and balance plan also required a 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 super-majority of Congress voted for it.

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 deal by a 269-161 vote on Aug. 1. Franks was one of 66 Republicans who voted against it.

“I am fundamentally convinced that a balanced budget amendment that says we are not able to deficit-spend apart from a national security emergency or a super-majority vote, even if it has no requirements related to a super-majority on taxes, will be a tremendous step forward in this country because there is already an understanding growing among the electorate that to raise taxes diminishes the economic base, and most of the time, the total revenues coming into the federal government,” Franks told