Senate Democrat says he'll support balanced budget amendment

Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) announced Tuesday that he will co-sponsor a Constitutional amendment requiring a balanced federal budget. 

He is the first Democrat to sponsor such a measure in many years.

Udall is introducing his balanced budget amendment bill with Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.). The bill would require that spending not exceed revenue in any given year.

Udall’s move is being taken as a sign of the unusual momentum deficit hawks enjoy in this Congress compared to previous years. It comes on a day when the Democratic head of the Senate Appropriations Committee, long-time earmarker Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), announced a two-year ban on earmarks in his committee. Udall had pushed for such a ban in the last Congress.

The Udall bill would also limit federal spending to the historical average of 20 percent of gross domestic product in a given year. It currently stands at 24.7 percent.

Another Democrat, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) also introduced a bipartisan bill Tuesday that would impose a cap of 20.6 percent of GDP on spending after 10 years. That bill does not have the support of other Democrats and is opposed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

The Udall bill would allow Congress, through three-fifths votes in both houses, to waive the balanced budget requirement. In this way it differs from a rival GOP balanced budget bill, proposed by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) with 23 co-sponsors, which would require a two-thirds vote of both Houses to exceed the 20 percent cap or to spend more than is collected in revenues.

A balanced budget amendment would require support from two-thirds of both Houses and three-fourths of the states in order to become part of the Constitution. In 1997, a balanced budget amendment with bipartisan support and fell just shy of the votes needed for passage.

“This amendment would send a strong signal to the financial markets, U.S. businesses, and the American people that we are serious about stabilizing our economy for the long-term,” Udall said in a statement.