GOP kicks off push for a balanced-budget amendment

Against the backdrop of a weakening economy and intense partisanship in Washington, the GOP on Saturday began a marathon push to pass a bipartisan balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution.

As part of this summer’s debt-ceiling deal, House and Senate leaders committed to holding votes in each chamber on a balanced budget amendment by the end of the year.

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Two-thirds of each body must vote for the balanced-budget amendment before it is sent to the states for ratification, so Democrats need to be won over or pressured into going along.

Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), the sponsor of two leading GOP versions, makes the case in the weekly Republican address airing Saturday that an amendment would create jobs.

He says it would do so by ending attempts at Obama-style stimulus spending — a line that probably won’t woo many Democrats.

“The president’s ‘stimulus’ spending has proven counterproductive,” Goodlatte says in his prepared remarks. “This fall, both the House and the Senate will vote on a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution that would force Congress to spend only what the government takes in … That doesn’t just mean a fiscal house in order: It also means more certainty for the private sector and a better environment for job creation.”

Goodlatte calls on Obama to back a balanced-budget amendment in the presidents Sept. 8 jobs speech to Congress.

In his remarks, Goodlatte acknowledges that getting bipartisan support for a balanced-budget amendment “won’t be easy.”

He notes, however, that the then-Republican-controlled Senate in 1995 fell only one vote short of adopting a version of a balanced-budget amendment.

“More than $9 trillion has been added to our national debt since,” he says. “That’s a 180 percent increase. Imagine how different things would be if the amendment had passed. We cannot afford to make the same mistake.”

The 1995 balanced-budget amendment proposal was very different from the Goodlatte version, which sets a two-thirds vote bar for any future tax agreements.

Within the GOP, there is disagreement about whether to stick to this version, or to seek a “clean” amendment that does not have the tax provision.

In the House, Blue Dog Democrats have introduced a version of the balanced-budget amendment that requires only three-fifths votes — the same as now essentially required in the Senate — to run deficits. It also excludes Social Security from the equation.

Goodlatte also touts the GOP’s fall jobs agenda. He says it will include rolling back regulations, lowering gas prices by exploring for energy and adopting free-trade deals.