Gohmert: Balanced Budget Amendment Must Include Spending Cap

By Fred Lucas | August 23, 2011 | 6:31pm EDT

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas)

(CNSNews.com) - Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) will not vote for a balanced budget amendment proposal unless it includes a cap on federal spending. However, he is undecided whether the amendment absolutely must require a supermajority of Congress to approve a tax hike for him to support it.

“The most important element is the cap on spending,” Gohmert told CNSNews.com. “If there is no cap on spending, then the balanced budget amendment is a formula for ever- increasing spending and ever-increasing taxing that will just spiral upward and upward again. So there’s got to be included a cap on spending, and best if it’s related to a percentage of GDP. But, absolutely, if there is no cap on spending, I could not vote for 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. 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. Gohmert was one of 66 Republicans who voted against it.

“As far as the supermajority to raise taxes, that’s our preference, but the key element, the most important element is the cap on spending,” Gohmert said. “If there is no supermajority to raise taxes then I’d just have to look at it more closely to see what all was there to see if it was something I could vote for or not.”

Gohmert believes this is a winning issue for Republicans.

“Well, I think it’s like this: We either have a legitimate Balanced Budget Amendment pass with a cap on spending, or I really believe if it does not pass, you will see many of those who voted against it turned out both in the House and Senate in the next election,” Gohmert said. “So I think it’s an either/or. Either people vote for it and it passes, or we have a significant change in the people that are in the House and Senate that voted against it.”

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