Pence lobbies leaders for a 'clean' balanced-budget amendment

A key fiscal conservative is leading an effort to convince the GOP House leadership to hold a vote on a less partisan version of a balanced-budget amendment.

Former Republican Study Committee Chairman Rep. Mike Pence (Ind.) told reporters late Tuesday that he is lobbying his party leaders to send a version of the constitutional amendment that wouldn't require a supermajority in Congress to raise taxes or place spending caps on future Congresses.

The former GOP conference chairman said if the House voted on the version that was supported by the House in the mid-1990s, which had some bipartisan backing, then he might vote for the two-step approach to raise the debt ceiling that Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) offered.

“I'm undecided [on Boehner's proposal]. I'm lobbying strongly. I wouldn't say this gets me,” Pence explained, noting that leadership aides haven't decided which version of the constitutional amendment to consider on the House floor this week.

The Indiana gubernatorial candidate said that the more extreme version of the balanced-budget amendment, preferred by fiscal conservative supporters of the "cut, cap and balance" bill, won't garner the two-thirds vote needed for passage to the Senate — and eventually the state legislatures.

Pence said the "clean balanced-budget amendment," offered by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) in 2007, doesn't require a "supermajority on tax increases, no spending limit amendment — and remember, I wrote with Jeb Hensarling, in the last Congress, a spending limit amendment to the Constitution, I'm for that, [but] that won't pass at this point by 290 votes."

Goodlatte also sponsored the version of the balanced-budget amendment that includes a two-thirds requirement for tax increases and a spending cap, which the House Judiciary Committee approved earlier this year.

As House GOP leaders scrambled to whip up support for Boehner's two-step debt-limit plan late Tuesday, they had to reschedule a vote on the measure for Thursday, after the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reported that the Speaker's plan would come up hundreds of billions of dollars short of his estimated savings. Pence continued lobbying for his own two-step plan, which could gather much-needed conservative votes when the proposal is considered later this week.

Early Wednesday morning, the House GOP conference will meet for the third time in as many days to discuss Boehner's proposal. Since introducing the bill on Monday, members of the GOP leadership team, including the Speaker, have worked the House floor during votes to whip up support for the last-ditch proposal that sources say Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) agreed to over the weekend — before President Obama told Reid the plan was a no-go.

On Tuesday, however, Reid vowed that Boehner's proposal would not make it out of the Senate.