After days of hype, 47 conservative organizations and more than 20 members of Congress officially announced their support for the “Cut, Cap, Balance Pledge” during a press conference Wednesday afternoon on Capitol Hill. It was a shining moment in the spotlight for the conservative movement.
The lineup of lawmakers included Republican Orrin Hatch of Utah, Jim DeMint of South Carolina, Mike Lee of Utah, and Rand Paul of Kentucky. Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio, Ron Paul of Texas, Joe Walsh of Illinois and Tom Graves of Georgia.
All emphasized the need to act now to the shape country’s fiscal path in a way that will ensure a balanced budget and fiscal order. Colin Hanna, President of the group LetFreedomRing pushed that point, saying “This is beyond partisanship; this is beyond ideology. This is truly about survival.”
Sen. Paul took it one step further and drew the clearest line in the sand with his short statement saying that passing a balanced budget amendment is “the only way I will vote to raise the debt ceiling.”
The pledge itself ties a three-part legislative package to the vote on the debt ceiling. Lawmakers who sign it promise not to vote to raise the debt ceiling unless a balanced budget amendment is passed, spending is cut across the board, and a cap on government spending is put in place.
But as Sen. Lee acknowledged in answer to a reporter’s question, the pledge does not dictate where the spending cuts have to take place. (CBO releases daunting long-term budget outlook)
So far, Republican leadership has been absent from the pledge’s signatures. When asked by The Daily Caller, Sen. Lee respectfully declined to comment on whether the leadership will sign on, saying he doesn’t speak for his colleagues.
The general consensus, however, is that Republican leadership will not agree to sign such a binding pledge, as it would restrict their negotiating power with Democrats on any debt ceiling deal.
Representatives from some of the conservative organizations in attendance, though, pointed to the support of Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina — generally considered to be a moderate — as an indication similar lawmakers could follow from both parties.
“I think that any pledge where you have Ron Paul, Rand Paul, Lindsey Graham and Orrin Hatch all together on the same dais is a pledge that needs to be looked at seriously by not just conservative Republicans, but moderate Republicans and frankly moderate and conservative Democrats,” Andrew Langer, President of Institute for Liberty, told TheDC.
For now, conservative groups and lawmakers are going to continue to push the pledge through Capitol Hill, though only time will tell if more lawmakers sign on. Will the pledge actually play a part in the eventual debt limit deal?
“I think it’s going to be difficult — very, very, difficult, Richard Manning of Americans for Limited Government, told TheDC. “But this is the first step. We’ve got to send messages to the leadership of both houses.”