Every single Republican in the US Senate – all 47 of them – are supporting an effort to pass a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution:
On top of that, according to polls, some 81% of the Republican base wants a balanced budget amendment. Yet, for some reason, leadership in the House is apparently trying to kill the BBA and even a poll of Republican House members shows lackluster support for the effort.
Speculation on Capitol Hill runs rampant that House Leadership is actively undermining the prospects for passage of a Balanced Budget Amendment to our Constitution, effectively eliminating the most powerful tool we have to enforce budgeting discipline into the future. While all 47 Senate Republicans co-sponsored a strong BBA that included a spending limit and a supermajority threshold for tax increases, House Leadership has been either ambivalent or subtly hostile towards real structural budget reform. In interviews, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has said he isn’t interested in “gimmicks,” which many regarded as a backhanded comment about a BBA or a statutory spending cap.
This bad-mouthing seems to be working. The National Journal surveyed Members of Congress about what they expected from a debt ceiling agreement and only 39% of Republicans thought a BBA would be a part of the deal. For some perspective a recent poll found that 81% of Republican voters support a BBA, so I think it’s safe to say that elected Rs appear to not be reflecting the will of their constituents very well.
And now word is leaking that Republican House leaders seem to be rushing through a BBA not in order to actually pass it, but to give it a speedy euthanasia and get it out of their hair. Just this morning, I received an email from a House staffer who said “Leadership is planning on bringing H.J. Res. 1 to the floor for a vote sometime over the next two weeks to delegitimize the BBA and separate it from the debt ceiling vote.”
The debt ceiling vote is a key leverage point in the debate over the national debt. With Republicans still in the minority in the Senate, and with Obama still wielding the veto pen in the White House, congressional Republicans need to use these leverage points if they hope to change things.
If House Republicans don’t want a balanced budget amendment, then what is their big plan to address the deficit and debt?
Republicans are looking strong again going in to the 2012 election cycle. The way things look now, they’ll enlarge their House majority and take the Senate. Maybe even the White House. But that might not be the case if Republicans fail to enact credible policies to address the national debt.