Hatch, Cornyn unveil balanced budget amendment

“Time after time, Washington has promised to bring down the debt, but then kept the spending going – increasing the mountain of debt our kids and grandkids will have to pay for,” Hatch said. 

The senators’ announcement came on the same day the Congressional Budget Office released its estimate saying the federal budget deficit increased to $1.5 trillion this fiscal year.

The proposed amendment — which currently has the support of 19 other Republican senators — would mandate  spending not exceed revenues in any given fiscal year. It would also limit federal spending to 20 percent of gross domestic product and force any legislation that raises taxes to get two-thirds approval in both the House and the Senate. 

The planks in the amendment could be pushed aside if the United States is at war or in a military conflict, as well as with the support of two-thirds of both houses of Congress. 

On Wednesday, several top Democrats pushed back at the amendment in various news conferences on Capitol Hill. Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), the chairman of the Budget Committee, said he had not examined the measure, but added he could not support it if it was similar to past proposals — which he said raided the Social Security trust fund to make up for current spending. 

For their part, Sen. Dick DurbinDick DurbinCongress should stand for consumers and repeal the Durbin Amendment Lawmakers reintroduce online sales tax bills Democrats exploring lawsuit against Trump MORE (D-Ill.), the majority whip, and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), the ranking member of the House Budget Committee, both signaled they believed balancing the budget should not involve the Constitution and instead should be done through more normal legislative channels. 

At a news conference discussing the amendment, Cornyn said the group had not yet reached out to Democrats for support. But the Texan also noted that the push for the amendment had just begun and that 11 Democratic senators had backed the idea in a 1997 vote. 

Hatch and Cornyn have also noted the 1997 balanced budget amendment received 66 votes in the Senate — one short of the number needed to advance. 

Of the Democratic senators who voted yes at that time, four — Max BaucusMax BaucusChanging of the guard at DC’s top lobby firm GOP hasn’t reached out to centrist Dem senators Five reasons why Tillerson is likely to get through MORE of Montana, Tom HarkinTom HarkinDistance education: Tumultuous today and yesterday Grassley challenger no stranger to defying odds Clinton ally stands between Sanders and chairmanship dream MORE of Iowa, Herb Kohl of Wisconsin and Mary LandrieuMary LandrieuMedicaid rollback looms for GOP senators in 2020 Five unanswered questions after Trump's upset victory Pavlich: O’Keefe a true journalist MORE of Louisiana — are still in the chamber. (The current vice president, Joe BidenJoe BidenThe Hill's 12:30 Report Biden spotted at Wizards playoff game Trump’s wall jams GOP in shutdown talks MORE, also voted yes.)

Lawmakers in the House are also moving forward with proposed balanced budget amendments. One measure from Rep. Bob GoodlatteBob GoodlatteLawmakers reintroduce online sales tax bills Senators push 'cost-effective' reg reform Rob Thomas: Anti-Trump celebs have become 'white noise' MORE (R-Va.) already has 160 co-sponsors, including a handful of Democrats.