Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., holds a news conference Wednesday in Washington, D.C., to call for a balanced-budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Contributed Photo
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The region’s Republican senators have joined forces with the rest of the GOP conference in signing a proposed constitutional amendment that would require the federal budget to be balanced annually.
“The reason that we need a balanced budget amendment, or some type of constitutional amendment to limit spending, is that Congress will fall off the wagon,” said U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., at a news conference Wednesday on Capitol Hill.
The GOP conference is now increasing pressure on their Democratic counterparts to schedule a vote on their plan to amend the U.S. Constitution.
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said he plans to use a procedural move to force the measure to come for a vote before the full Senate the week of July 18.
Amending the Constitution requires 67 votes in the Senate. House approval also would be needed, again by a two-thirds margin. Then the measure would have to go before all the states for a vote.
But the bill seems unlikely to get out of the Senate. All 47 Senate Republicans have signed onto the legislation. Not a single Democrat has done so.
While it’s a long shot, U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., said while working in state government, he saw firsthand that a balanced budget amendment constrains lawmakers.
“It gave legislators a reason to say, no they couldn’t do something when somebody came asking for more money,” said Isakson.
Democrats counter that the federal budget was balanced under the Clinton White House without a balanced budget amendment. They said they want to see the budget balanced but have different ideas on how to get there, such as moving from an annual to a biennial budget.
“We need to change the way the process works, that’s why I support biennial budgeting,” said U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H. “It allows for more oversight by the Congress and that’s important.”
Without a balanced budget amendment, Republicans say Congress has no ability to stop excessive spending.
Corker pointed to how bogged down the Capitol has become with the debate over whether to raise the nation’s debt ceiling by Aug. 2.
“The oxygen is out of this building because everybody is focused on these debt ceiling talks,” Corker said. “Think about that: The only way that Congress ever acts today is if there’s a crisis or some wall they have to bump up against.”
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