Republican push for balanced-budget amendment faces high hurdles in House

House Republicans urging a balanced-budget amendment to accompany a debt-ceiling hike have a tough road ahead.

The president rejects it, House Democrats are whipping against it, and even the Blue Dogs — the conservative-leaning Democrats who support the notion of mandatory balanced budgets — are lining up to kill it.

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"Their proposal stinks," Rep. Dennis Cardoza (D-Calif.) said tersely on Friday.

That verdict is bad news for GOP leaders, who will need support from two-thirds of Congress to ban deficit spending as part of the Constitution — a vote threshold required of any constitutional amendment. It would then need ratification from three-quarters of the states.

The dynamics are indication enough that GOP leaders don't expect their balanced-budget amendment (BBA) to pass — or even that that's the point. Indeed, there are several other versions of the BBA that Cardoza predicted would win support from "a lot of thoughtful members on both sides of the aisle."

But the bill Republicans are expected to bring to the floor next week is a version favored by the party's right-most flank — providing an opportunity for rank-and-file Republicans to bolster their conservative credentials with a recorded vote, even if the proposal stands little chance of becoming law.

Sponsored by GOP Reps. Bob Goodlatte (Va.) and Joe Walsh (Ill.), the Republicans' balanced-budget proposal would require Congress to pass a balanced budget each year; cap federal spending at 18 percent of the GDP; require a two-thirds majority of Congress to increase taxes, and a three-fifths vote to hike the debt limit.

Supporters say it's needed to control run-away deficits and rein in the nation's $14.3 trillion debt.

"We need to get serious about changing the way we spend money here in Washington," House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said this week. "And implementing long-term reforms, like the balanced-budget amendment, will make sure we never again face a debt crisis like we do today."

Republicans are including the BBA as part of their "Cut, Cap and Balance" plan, which would authorize a $2.4 trillion debt-ceiling hike only after Congress passes a balanced-budget amendment.

The strategy has been championed by the Republican Study Committee, which represents the conservative wing of the caucus. On Friday, GOP leaders rallied behind the plan as well.

“We want to change the system here," House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said. "We want to be able to go home to the people who elected us and show them that we are not going to allow this kind of spending to continue."

Democrats were quick to reject the Republicans' balanced-budget amendment, which House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) characterized Friday as "outrageous."

Rep. Norm Dicks (Wash.), the senior Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, also registered his opposition.

"I don't think that has much prospect," he said.

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) piled on as well.

"This partisan bill will not do anything to ensure America pays its bills, nor is it the meaningful action we need to substantially reduce the deficit in a balanced way so that the burden doesn’t fall on our seniors and the middle class," said Hoyer, who has vowed to whip Democrats against the bill.

The Blue Dogs are also pushing a balanced-budget amendment. Sponsored by Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), the bill stipulates that Social Security benefits would be protected from the budget changes.

Cardoza said he'd spoken recently with Goodlatte about the various BBA proposals floating around Capitol Hill.

"He's got two versions, one that's a piece of crap and one that's very responsible," Cardoza said. "Knowing their history," he added, the Republicans will likely bring the former to the floor.

President Obama, meanwhile, is pushing back against any constitutional changes to the budget process.

"All of us believe that we need to get to a point where eventually we can balance the budget," Obama said Friday during a press briefing at the White House.

"We don’t need a constitutional amendment to do that; what we need to do is to do our jobs."