Tea Party coalition forming to push for balanced budget amendment

Alex Pappas Political Reporter
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A new Tea Party coalition is in the works, The Daily Caller has learned, to begin an organized push for an amendment to the constitution requiring that the federal budget be balanced every year.

One activist describes the effort as the logical next step for the movement that burst onto the scene early last year in response to government bailouts and stimulus packages.

The coalition, named BBA Now, as in Balance Budget Amendment Now, plans to officially unveil its three-year plan in September, director of coalitions Kellen Giuda said in an interview. Part of the campaign includes petitioning 2010 congressional candidates, as well as presidential candidates in 2012, to sign a pledge in support of the effort.

A balanced budget amendment restricts the government from spending more than its projected revenue every year, except for in times of war or a national emergency.

BBA Now was formed out of “ReAL Action” the 501(c)4 arm of the Renewing American Leadership organization, whose honorary chairman is Newt Gingrich and whose mission is to “preserve America’s Judeo-Christian heritage.”

More than 80 groups have signed up to be part of the Common Sense Balanced Budget Amendment Campaign coalition. National groups, like Americans for Tax Reform and Young Americans for Freedom, have joined, as have various local grassroots groups like the Baldwin Alabama Tea Party and the Bel Air Tea Party Patriots, for example. College Republican groups from across the country have also added their names to the list.

“It’s the issue we can kind of all get behind,” Giuda said, noting that he’s met very few Tea Party activists opposed to the idea of an amendment. “This is exactly why me and so many others got involved.”

The amendment envisioned by the coalition includes three pillars: ending the annual deficit by requiring a balanced budget, limiting federal spending to no more than 20 percent of the country’s GDP and requiring a two-thirds supermajority vote in Congress to raise taxes.

Ken Hagerty, the vice president for policy at Renewing American Leadership Action, said the super-majority requirement to raise taxes was added to the proposed amendment because “traditional BBAs have open back doors that the bad guys have learned to fill with taxes.”

“But we’ve also learned that even that is not enough, because the federal government is now consuming more than 27 percent of the GDP and rising,” he said. “It won’t do us a lot of good to balance the budget at a level that leaves us with a Euro-socialist economy.”

That’s why the amendment also includes capping federal spending at no more than 20 percent of GDP, the postwar historical average over the last 65 years. “That’s hardly draconian. But it’s enough to assure that we keep our republic,” Hagerty said.

A handful of Republican senators—Jim DeMint and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, John McCain of Arizona and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma—reportedly will push for a constitutional amendment when they return from the August recess. “We’ll bring that back between now and the election,” DeMint told The Hill earlier this month.

A spokesman for DeMint did not immediately return a request for comment on the Common Sense Balanced Budget Amendment Campaign.

Dr. Larry Sabato, professor of political science at the University of Virginia who wrote about the balanced budget amendment in his book “A More Perfect Constitution,” downplayed the chances of the proposed amendment being successful. “Constitutional amendments are extraordinarily difficult to ratify,” he said.
He suggested the debate will be impacted by what President Obama’s deficit commission recommends in December: “If there is truly a bipartisan pathway to a balanced budget and substantial reduction of the national debt over the next decade, any new efforts to create a BBA will die on the vine or go nowhere.”

But even if the GOP wins control of Congress, he said, he doubts a two-thirds vote could pass both the House and Senate. “And I’m not sure there are 38 states willing to ratify a BBA either… It is easy to get to 30 states for something like a BBA. But 35, 36, 37 are tough. 38 is nigh impossible,” he said.

A number of candidates for the U.S. Senate this year support a balanced budget amendment, including Republicans Sharron Angle in Nevada, Rand Paul in Kentucky and Marco Rubio in Florida.