King: No to Balanced Budget Amendment That Doesn’t Require Supermajority to Hike Taxes

By Fred Lucas | August 23, 2011 | 11:36 AM EDT

Rep. Steve King addresses a Tea Party rally on Capitol Hill on July 27, 2011. (Congressional photo)

( - Although the law increasing the federal debt limit that was enacted earlier this month requires both houses of Congress to vote on a balanced budget amendment before the end of this year, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa)—one of the leading conservatives in the U.S. House of Representatives--said he will not vote for the amendment if it does not include a cap on federal spending and require a supermajority in both houses of Congress to increase taxes.

“If we pass something out of the House as a constitutional amendment that has no teeth, then we have no results and it looks like we’re just posturing rather than actually fixing the problem,” King said when asked if he would support an amendment that does not cap spending and require supermajorities for tax hikes.

“One of the reasons I voted no on the debt ceiling deal is that it was supposed to be an important lever for us that we get a vote on a balanced budget amendment,” King said. “They did not include a definition for the balanced budget amendment.”

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. 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.

When the Republican-controlled-House approved the cut, cap and balance plan last 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. The GOP 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 two-thirds majorities in both houses 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. 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 houses of Congress give an up or down vote to a balanced budget amendment before the end of the year. However, it does not specify what the language of the amendment would be.

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. King was one of 66 Republicans who voted against it.

King said he is not confident the current House and Senate can solve the nation’s fiscal problems.

“I have in the within the last few weeks, two or three weeks, whatever it might be when the debt ceiling deal was finally resolved--at least for now--I came to the conclusion that the current configuration of Congress isn’t going to solve our debt problem,” King said. “There’s nothing on the horizon I can see between now and the elections in November 2012 that will actually turn us in a sharp enough direction towards fiscal responsibility that we can dial a line out to the point where we can get to a balance.”

Returning to Iowa, King said he heard from the public, and worries the Republican majority is not delivering.

“It was pretty clear having days involved in the debate, the Ames straw poll, a lot of time at the state fair meeting with people of any walk of life that would go to a fair,” King said. “They want to see this deficit under control. They want to see Obamacare repealed. If that doesn’t happen this time, the question becomes will they elect more Republicans to do this or will they simply revolt.”