Senator Kent Conrad has a lengthy history with a balanced budget amendment. In 1995 Republicans were pushing for a balanced budget amendment. Coming down to the wire, they needed just one more vote to make it a go in the US Senate. Kent Conrad “was at the center of the last-ditch negotiations” according to a news report at the time, but ultimately Republicans couldn’t win him over. “I don’t see any prospect for a meeting of minds,” said Conrad after his last meeting with Republicans on the matter.
The amendment never even went to a vote.
In 1997, Republicans were again on the verge of passing a balanced budget amendment. It went to a vote in the Senate on March 4th, 1997. As it was a constitutional amendment, it needed 67 votes to pass. Republicans got 66 votes, with Kent Conrad voting “nay.”
The man who once promised to resign from the Senate if deficit spending didn’t go down couldn’t bring himself to support a law requiring a balanced budget.
Now Conrad, on his way out of the Senate and trying desperately to be relevant in on-going debt talks in Washington, is mocking a balanced budget amendment as “almost laughable.”
“A constitutional amendment would take years to put in place,” says Senator Conrad. “Why not actually make the revenue decisions that are necessary to balance the budget instead of asking somebody else to do it.”
Of course, if Conrad had supported a balanced budget amendment in 1995 or 1997 we might not be in this mess now. And Conrad is mischaracterizing the cut, cap and balance legislation. He focuses only on the balance part, saying Republicans just want to kick the can down the road, but there’s also the cutting and the capping.
Republicans don’t just want a balanced budget amendment. They want less spending too.
This illustrates exactly the sort of politician Senator Conrad is. He’s all for balancing the budget, just don’t expect him to support any sort of legislation that might actually balance the budget. Because in reality, the “deficit hawk” stuff is all talk. He’s really a tax-and-spend liberal.