House GOP Likely to Offer Balanced Budget Amendment That Permits Unlimited Federal Spending

By Matt Cover | November 10, 2011 | 7:04 PM EST

Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) (AP Photo)

( – House Republicans appear likely to votes sometime next week on a balanced budget amendment (BBA) that would allow unlimited federal spending and would not require a supermajority in both houses of Congress to raise taxes.

Many conservatives have argued that such an amendment--that does not cap spending as a percentage of GDP--is a formula for bigger government and higher taxes.

In a statement to, Rep. Bob Goodlatte’s (R-Va.) spokeswoman Kathryn Rexrode said that Goodlatte, author of two versions of a BBA, “supports the strongest balanced budget amendment that can pass the Congress.”

“Congressman Goodlatte introduced both H.J. Res 1 and H.J. Res 2 on the opening day of the 112th Congress,” she said. “He has long been a champion of a balanced budget amendment and is pleased to have such strong support for his efforts.  Congressman Goodlatte supports the strongest balanced budget amendment that can pass the Congress.”

Rexrode pointed out that for a BBA to pass it must gain Democratic support, saying that a version – H.J. Res. 2 – that did not cap spending or require supermajorities to raise taxes, nonetheless had strong taxpayer protections.

“At this point it has not been announced which version of the balanced budget amendment will be considered by the full House but one thing is for sure, for a balanced budget amendment to pass it must be bipartisan,” Rexrode said.  “H.J. Res 2 contains strong protections to ensure that the federal government doesn’t spend more than it takes in on an annual basis.”

H.J. Res. 2 does not cap spending as a percent of GDP or require a supermajority (3/5ths vote in House and Senate) to pass tax increases. H.J. Res 1 requires the supermajority and would cap federal spending at 18 percent of GDP.

Rexrode’s statement did not say which version Goodlatte or other Republicans favor.

House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, left, accompanied by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Va., center, and House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy of Calif., takes part in a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2011, to discuss China currency. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

However, Goodlatte told media outlets on Wednesday that the House GOP “overwhelmingly” supports the version of the BBA without the spending cap and supermajority requirements, The Hill newspaper reported.

Goodlatte, who has written both types of BBA, told The Hill that the choice was not between one of his proposed amendments or another, but which version is most likely to attract enough Democrats to gain the two-thirds majority needed to pass a constitutional amendment through Congress.

Goodlatte’s statements and Rexrode’s unprompted defense of H.J. Res. 2 suggest that that version will be the one House GOP leaders send to the floor next week, a move that likely will anger conservatives who support caps on federal spending.

The other version version (Res. 1),  incorporated in the Cut, Cap, and Balance legislation the House passed over the summer, is favored by conservatives because it makes it caps federal spending as a percentage of GDP and makes it more difficult for Congress to raise taxes.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told reporters on Oct. 27 that he would introduce whichever version the GOP caucus wanted, refusing to rule out a BBA that did not cap spending or require supermajorities for tax increases.

Former Attorney General Edwin Meese (Heritage Foundation photo)

“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,” Boehner said.

There has not been an official announcement from either Goodlatte or the House GOP leadership as to which version will be introduced.

Former Attorney General Edwin Meese, who served in the Reagan administration, spoke at the Heritage Foundation in late October about why a BBA with a spending cap and supermajority to raise taxes was vital.

A weak Balanced Budget Amendment -- without certain safeguards and protections against excessive taxation and excessive spending -- would be worse than the situation we have at the present time,” Meese said. “It would be used by those who seek to have an expanded government and increased taxes to make it mandatory to increase taxes.”

“It would make it much easier to raise taxes,” he said, “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.”