By Molly K. Hooper and Erik Wasson - 11/10/11 05:36 PM EST
The House will vote next week on a balanced budget amendment that could win some Democratic votes.
Republicans have been battling over whether to move one of two different balanced budget bills.
One version would require a two-thirds vote by Congress to raise taxes and is favored by conservatives. The other, a so-called "clean" bill, would only require a majority vote to raise taxes.
While staunch fiscal conservatives oppose it, the clean bill has bipartisan support and was approved by the House in 1995, so GOP leaders believe it has a better chance of garnering the needed 290 votes to pass a constitutional amendment.
Still it was unclear if the Democrats would vote for a balanced budget amendment.
Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), who voted for a similar version in 1995, indicated recently that he may oppose it when the House votes on the bill.
House Republicans held a “vigorous” conference meeting last Friday to discuss which version of the balanced budget amendment to consider on the floor.
GOP Rep. Bob Goodlatte (Va.) – who sponsored both versions of the balanced budget amendment – said on Wednesday that Republicans “overwhelmingly” support voting on a clean version.
Staunch conservatives argued, however, that the clean version would make it easier for Congress to raise taxes to balance the budget – as opposed to cut spending.
A coalition of conservative interest groups, spearheaded by Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) sent a letter to GOP leaders on Wednesday, imploring them not to vote on the clean version of the balanced budget amendment.
“Unless tax hikes are taken off the table, reckless lawmakers will increase taxes to pay for these new bloated spending levels, rather than bring spending in line with revenues. A “clean” BBA provides the excuse big spenders seek to raise taxes and grow government,” the letter, signed by 32 conservative groups, asserted.
Goodlatte said he “respectfully disagrees” that the clean bill will lead to tax increases.
He said the choice is not between the two versions of the bill but between a BBA that can pass and the status quo. He also noted that the “clean” version requires an absolute majority to raise taxes, rather than a simple majority of those present and voting in each chamber, as is the case now.
Goodlatte said the BBA is important in part because even if the deficit supercommittee succeeds in cutting $1.2 trillion from the deficit, that is not nearly enough.
The constitutional amendment faces tough odds however. Should the BBA receive 290 votes in the House, it must clear the Senate and three-fourths of the states’ legislatures to become law.
This story was updated at 1:54 p.m.