Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) says Senate Republicans will unanimously support a balanced-budget amendment, and he plans to tout the legislation, which will be unveiled on Wednesday, as the nucleus of his party’s fiscal agenda.
“There couldn’t be a better time than right in the middle of the sequester, and, subsequently, another debt-ceiling debate, which focuses the attention of the American people on the transcendent issue of our time, which is deficit and debt,” McConnell says, in an interview with National Review Online.
Behind the scenes, McConnell says, Republican whip John Cornyn of Texas has led the process. Two years ago, Senate Republicans, led by Orrin Hatch of Utah, proposed nearly identical legislation, but the measures failed to pass the Democratic-controlled Senate.
The unity of Senate Republicans, this time around, is a contrast to internal squabbles that dominated the last rollout. In 2011, tea-party favorites such as Mike Lee (Utah) were initially opposed to Cornyn’s plan, but eventually a consensus was brokered.
The latest proposal requires the president to submit a balanced budget each year, and it would cap federal spending at 18 percent of GDP. It would also require a supermajority for tax hikes and debt-limit increases.
McConnell, however, “hasn’t decided” whether he will use a balanced-budget amendment as leverage in the debt-limit negotiations. But he will use the plan to frame the GOP’s fiscal case, and to combat President Obama’s expected push for taxes and spending.
McConnell also acknowledges that in divided government, passing a balanced-budget amendment will be difficult. But he doesn’t think that’s a reason to drop the idea, or retreat: “We don’t expect this Democratic Senate to approve this, but it’s still an important principle worth advocating.”
“Just because something may not pass doesn’t mean that the American people don’t expect us to stand up and be counted for the things that we believe in,” he says. “There are plenty of ideas that are promoted in Congress that don’t become law. We think if this did become law, it’d be a positive improvement for our country.”