Republican lawmakers need to be willing to risk their political careers to win support for a balanced-budget amendment, a top conservative senator said Monday.
In a fundraising message to supporters, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) pressured Republicans to join him in making a vote on raising the nation's debt ceiling conditional on passage of a GOP-backed balanced-budget amendment released last week.
DeMint's message reveals the lengths he is willing to go in order to drum up support for the amendment, drafted by a group of veteran and freshman GOP senators.
The balanced-budget amendment came amid a stormy debate on Capitol Hill over a litany of fiscal issues, such as a proposal to fund the government through this year, a 2012 budget and a vote to raise the debt celing.
The amendment, which has the backing of the entire Senate GOP conference, would cap spending at 18 percent of gross domestic product and permit the balanced-budget requirement to be waived in case of a declared war, if a majority in both chambers approve.
"If we're willing to draw a line in the sand and refuse to increase the debt limit unless the House and Senate pass the new Balanced Budget Amendment, we can win a major victory for the American people and begin the process of stopping the massive spending, takeovers and debt that are destroying our country," DeMint wrote.
DeMint has already said he would support a filibuster of the debt ceiling vote.
But passing a balanced-budget amendment could be difficult — the approval of 67 senators is needed to ratify it, meaning that 20 Democratic senators would need to support it if all Republicans vote in favor.
DeMint countered that he could make the debt ceiling vote, which needs the approval of 60 senators, equally if not more difficult.
"Democrat Leader Harry Reid [Nev.] will have to find 60 votes to increase the debt limit," wrote the South Carolinian. "There are 53 Democrats in the Senate today but at least eight of them know that voting with Reid will guarantee their defeat in the 2012 elections. That means Reid will have to find up to 15 Republicans to raise the debt limit."
Reid spokesman Jon Summers called DeMint's position irresponsible.
"It's irresponsible to advocate that the United States of America default on its debt," he said in an email. "Not only do we have an obligation to pay our bills, the world economy cannot afford the consequences of the U.S. defaulting on its debt because of partisan political posturing. He is clearly not following the advice of Speaker Boehner, who told Republican House members that they are going to have to 'deal with it as adults.' "
-- This article was updated at 4:27 p.m.