As President Obama’s erstwhile chief of staff Rahm Emanuel once observed, “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.” The sentiment captured a White House that saw troubling times as a lever to move big-spending, big-government policies on a scale never before seen. Now it’s increasingly important for Republicans to think just as big, not wasting the opportunity to undo permanently the fiscal damage caused by this profligacy.
The House will vote on a Balanced Budget Amendment (BBA) the week of July 25 - one week before the Treasury Department claims the United States would begin defaulting on its loans without an increase in the current $14.3 trillion borrowing limit.
Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Virginia Republican, scheduled the House floor vote one day after a group of House and Senate conservatives vowed to vote down any debt-limit deal unless a constitutional limitation on expenditures first cleared both chambers.
“The Balanced Budget Amendment has to pass the House and Senate before I’ll even consider letting Washington borrow another dime,” said Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, chairman of the Republican Study Committee, to The Washington Times. “Tinkering around the edges will not keep America out of bankruptcy. We need bold, historic changes.”
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, said the Senate will vote on the BBA the week of July 18, and that chamber once again will prove to be the real battleground. All 47 Republicans are already on board, and a non-binding vote in March on balanced-budget language sponsored by Sen. Mike Lee, Utah Republican, picked up 11 Democrats. That leaves about nine Democrats who would need to vote for the bill to secure passage. Sen. Max Baucus of Montana, Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa and Sen. Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana voted yes in 1997, but they turned against Mr. Lee’s amendment in March.
“There will be a push for the BBA,” said a House GOP leadership aide. That’s good because a debt-ceiling deal is meaningless without the BBA. It’s the only way to address this nation’s long-term fiscal crisis. As long as there are politicians in Washington, they’ll dream up new programs that require spending taxpayers’ money in new ways. Only a binding constitutional limitation would hold them in check.
There has never been a better chance of passage, and securing ratification from at least 38 states next year would inevitably become the central issue of the 2012 election - no presidential signature is required. Now is the time for the Republican leadership to make a high-profile case for the Balanced Budget Amendment to the American people.
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Emily Miller is senior editor of opinion for The Washington Times. She won the 2012 Clark Mollenhoff Award for Investigative Reporting from the Institute on Political Journalism.
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