Walsh: GOP leadership wrong with balanced budget amendment timing

John Rossomando Contributor
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The House GOP leadership might have scheduled a vote on his version of the balanced-budget amendment next week, but Illinois Rep. Joe Walsh has a problem with the timing.

According to Walsh, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor is making a mistake scheduling a vote in the coming week because he has doubts it will garner enough Democratic support to pass.

Cantor and House Speaker John Boehner announced Friday that they plan to hold a vote next week on a House version of the Cut, Cap and Balance Act.

The Cut, Cap and Balance Act, co-sponsored by Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz, along with freshman Reps. Mick Mulvaney of S.C. and Reid Ribble of Wisconsin, would allow the president to increase the debt limit to $16.7 trillion and make the hike contingent on passage of a balanced-budget amendment and its being sent to the states for ratification.

This increase would be in exchange for reducing non-defense discretionary spending to $78 billion and cutting mandatory spending $38 billion below the president’s budget request. The bill would also cap federal spending at 19.9 percent of GDP by 2021 — down from close to 26 percent of GDP today.

Walsh believes Republicans would have a better chance getting Democratic votes were the majority leader to push the vote back closer to the administration’s August 2 debt-ceiling deadline because the balanced-budget amendment could be an even more powerful bargaining chip.

“The balanced-budget amendment could be a game changer,” Walsh said. (House to act on Cut, Cap and Balance)

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer had terse words for his GOP on the House floor Friday.

“I don’t think cut, cap and balance is going to get us there,” Hoyer said . “I hope he has some other plan.”

Hoyer was a firm supporter of the balanced-budget amendment in 1995 when it came up for a vote as part of the Contract With America.

At the time, he had a far different attitude.

The number two ranking Democrat sounded like a Republican in a news conference following the 1995 passage of the Balanced-budget Amendment.

“We have to operate within that constraint (that of a balanced-budget amendment),” Hoyer said. “My granddaughter, who is now eight years of age, will have no discretionary dollars to invest any objective whether it’s defense, whether it’s education, or whether it would be health.

“All she would be doing is paying interest on the debt and transferring money to me and my colleagues of my age.”

The now-House minority whip went on to say the balanced-budget amendment was essential because it would bind successive Congresses unlike a simple statute.

Hoyer described the issue of a balanced budget as being “not a conservative one or a liberal one, and it is not an easy one, but it is an essential one” in a 1995 interview with The Baltimore Sun, at a time when the federal debt was inching toward $5 trillion.

“From what we know of it and what was introduced by the Republican senators before, this is even worse,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told reporters after a morning caucus meeting, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The House GOP leadership was much more lukewarm about passing a balanced-budget amendment just a few weeks ago, according to Walsh.

“If the leadership were as clear on the balanced-budget amendment as showing their interest in not raising taxes, we would be a lot further along than we are now,” Walsh said. “This is an 80/20 issue, and if it fails to pass the majority leader should bring it up for a vote every day.”

Walsh called Cut, Cap, Balance a “good idea”, but he expressed skepticism how it could work in the long run because a simple 218 majority vote could override its targets in the absence of a balanced-budget amendment.

“My leadership has to be willing to walk away from negotiating with Obama,” Walsh said. “They need to be able to say, ‘We are not going to act unless Congress passes a balanced-budget amendment.’”

Walsh’s sentiments echo those of conservatives in the other chamber such as Tennessee GOP Sen. Bob Corker who has said he will not vote to raise the debt ceiling unless a balanced-budget amendment passes.

Corker, like Walsh, contends the president is not serious about reducing the debt or the deficit because he is not willing to put matters such as his health care plan and entitlements on the table.

“When others stop focusing on this issue, Congress will go back to their old ways,” Corker said. “And that’s why a constitutional amendment is vitally important to anchor us in because it is a permenant threshold for us.”

While the senator is confident a balanced-budget amendment will receive support from all 47 Senate Republicans, he is less optimistic enough Democrats will come onboard to push it past the needed threshold of 67 votes.

Let Freedom Ring President Colin Hanna expressed delight with the House introduction of the Cut, Cap and Balance Act, suggesting it could peel away Democratic votes because it ties the balanced-budget amendment to the debt ceiling increase.

“If the Cut, Cap and Balance Act passes both Houses, the debt ceiling is sitting out there like a ripe plum ready to plucked, but only accessible if a balanced-budget amendment is passed,” Hanna said.