Senator Jim DeMint Will Filibuster Debt Cap Hike Until A Balanced Budget Amendment Is Passed

He’s throwing down the gauntlet:

Throwing down the gauntlet, Republican Sen. Jim DeMint threatened Monday to block a vote in Congress on raising the U.S. debt ceiling unless he wins a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution.

The filibuster threat comes a day after Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner suggested Republican leaders had offered private assurances to the White House that they ultimately would vote to raise the $14.3 trillion ceiling, regardless of whether a deal is reached on long-term spending cuts.

Publicly, Republicans say they will demand spending cuts as a condition for supporting a hike in the debt ceiling. They stood by that claim following Geithner’s comments, and DeMint took their demands a step further.

“I will oppose any attempt to vote to raise the limit on our $14 trillion debt until Congress passes the balanced-budget amendment,” the South Carolina conservative said. He first made the remarks to McClatchy, which his office confirmed to Fox News.

The debt cap has already been raised three times during President’s first two years in office. In February 2009 Obama got a $789 billion debt limit hike from Congress to pay for his stimulus plan. In December of that same year Congress passed a $290 billion debt ceiling increase and in February 2010 the Democrats in Congress hiked the limit another $1.4 trillion to today’s $14.3 trillion max.

That last increase was the largest single hike in the national debt cap in history, and was so large because Democrats didn’t want to have to raise it again later in the election year.

The balanced budget amendment DeMint is looking for requires a two-thirds vote for tax increases, a three-fifths vote for increases to the debt ceiling, and a three-fifths vote to spend more than 18 percent of GDP which would make it tougher than what Republicans wanted back in 1996 when an amendment failed by one vote (thanks Senator Kent Conrad!).

The Obama administration is saying that Republicans will ultimately side with Democrats and vote to raise the debt cap, but is that true? The GOP base is already feeling rankled after a something less-than-impressive compromise on the FY2011 budget crafted by Speaker Boehner, will Republicans risk their wrath by going along with a big debt cap increase?

Especially with someone like Senator Jim DeMint on their right flank demanding the sort of balanced budget amendment conservatives want?

Time will tell, but I have to think that it’s safer for Republicans to vote for a balanced budget amendment than for a debt cap increase.

Rob Port is the editor of In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters.

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  • SigFan

    Now that is going to shape up into one of the more interesting battles of the year. With the exception of national emergencies, I am all for a balanced budget amendment. It is well past time that the federal government had to live with the same fiscal constraints that rational and responsible taxpayers do – live within your means.

  • Neiman

    Problem is Sig, it will appear extreme and hard hearted to most of America because people like DeMint do not know how to express these things in human terms, they seem like heartless accountants sticking up for their rich pals.

    The GOP leadership will undermine all efforts at a Balanced Budget Amendment, because those career politicians among them know they are there to spend OPM and take home the bacon, that is their job description.

    • SigFan

      To some extent I think you are correct. DeMint is a smart guy though and while he may front the fight in the Senate if he’s as smart as I think he is he’ll get someone a little more charismatic to front it to the public. You may also be correct about the GOP leadership, particularly McConnell in this case, but hopefully enough of them remember the blistering the Democrats took in 2010 and want to avoid a repeat with themselves as the recipients of the same treatment. It will be interesting though, regardless of the outcome or the process.

  • WOOF

    Senator Jim Bob is grinding out a lap dance on TPM legs.
    Wants TPM chumps to put a couple of bucks in the Mint G-string.

    Michael Jordan will be playing centerfield for the Yankees before DeMint brings TPM suckers to balanced budget consummation.

  • realitybasedbob

    Voting for the war tax bill would go a long long way towards balancing our budget.

    Jimmy D is a dancing puppet.

  • mikemc1970

    Here’s to hoping he keeps his word. The Republicans need to squeeze every concession they can get from these spendaholic Democrats.

    • borborygmi

      Even with the cuts including Defense, restructuring Medicare and Soc Sec. taxes will still have to go up. You might as well face the reality. I am all for a Balanced Budget because spending and taxes will have to be balanced.

      • mikemc1970

        I will not hear a word about raising taxes until the Democrats get serious about cuts. The GAO said there was $200 billion in duplicative spending. That’s where we start.

  • Jimmypop

    at least we have ONE leader pretending to have balls. lets hope we get a couple more of them and actually FIX this idiocy.

    • Jamermorrow

      They will continue to raise the debt limit and print money. Hyper inflation and the collapse of the dollar will be what finally puts a cap on spending.