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MILLER: Economy in the balance

Bipartisan constitutional amendment needed to restore fiscal sanity

- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 28, 2011

House Speaker John A. Boehner scheduled a vote on the one bill that would take the nation off the path to certain bankruptcy. In exchange for some GOP votes on his debt-ceiling deal, Mr. Boehner set a possible Friday vote on the Balanced Budget Amendment (BBA). Democrats ought to put partisanship aside and embrace this fiscally responsible measure.

Freshmen and fiscal hawks didn't like the original plan of a token vote on the constitutional amendment in late fall. Indiana Rep. Mike Pence told the Republican conference two days ago that he wouldn't support a debt deal without a real shot at getting the amendment through the Capitol and to the states. The Hoosier's strategy was to bring up a bill that had been supported by Democrats when it passed the House 15 years ago.

"I thought, the real opportunity here is to play it straight," Mr. Pence told The Washington Times in an interview. "We would take word for word the amendment that passed Congress with 300 votes in 1995 and bring it to the floor."

GOP leaders told the rank-and-file Thursday morning that they would get a vote on the "Republican" and the "bipartisan" versions, both introduced by Rep. Bob Goodlatte, Virginia Republican. While the Republican one is stronger in preventing future tax hikes, it has no realistic chance of getting two-thirds for passage on its own.

Mr. Pence said he talked to Blue Dogs and to the third-ranking Democrat in the House, South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn, who "reaffirmed to me his strong commitment to that Balanced Budget Amendment." Even House Minority Leader Steny Hoyer, Maryland Democrat, voted for the measure in 1995.

"How compelling would it be for the Congress to pass a Balanced Budget Amendment by 290 votes, set it on the front door step of the Senate, and tell the American people: 'Let 'em know what you think,' " said Mr. Pence with a smile.

Support for the Balanced Budget Amendment is stronger in the states and with the public than inside the Beltway. Polls show that up to 70 percent of Americans support the idea. The public realizes, as Mr. Pence points out, that "Congress runs on deficits principally for one reason: because it can."

Taking that power away from Washington politicians - as 49 states have done with their own legislatures - would be the best possible outcome from the current dire situation. Raising the debt limit without imposing any real, immediate spending cuts or binding limitation on spending would be a disaster for everyone, including Democrats.

That's why the other party ought to listen to their constituents - and their conscience - and take away that ability of Congress to continue piling up trillions in debt to pass on to future generations.

Emily Miller is a senior editor for the Opinion pages at The Washington Times.

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