Sponsor says 'clean' balanced budget amendment has edge for floor vote

The House GOP “overwhelmingly” supports holding a vote on a “clean” version of the balanced budget amendment as opposed to a version that makes it harder to increase taxes, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), the author of both versions of the legislation, said Wednesday.

Goodlatte's comments strongly suggest GOP leaders will bring the clean bill to the floor for a vote. 

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The key difference between the two measures is that the clean version only requires a majority vote to raise taxes. The other version, which is supported by Grover Norquist and his group Americans for Tax Reform, would require a two-thirds majority vote in both chambers to raise taxes. 

Fewer Democrats support the latter version, since the two-thirds vote would set up a high hurdle for raising taxes to reduce the deficit. 

Goodlatte said that the GOP members made their views clear in a Friday caucus meeting. He said those supporting the clean version believe it is the only one with a chance of winning approval. 

A vote on a BBA is slated for next week, but House leaders have yet to announce which version of the bill will be brought to the floor. 

To be sent to the states, a constitutional amendment requires two-thirds votes in both houses of Congress, so the House GOP needs Democratic support. The clean version came close to winning approval in the 1990s. 

Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) on Wednesday waded into the internal House GOP debate by strongly opposing the clean version.

Norquist and ATR have leverage with Republicans because many in the House GOP conference have signed the group's pledge not to raise taxes. 

Goodlatte said that he “certainly respects” the view of Norquist but that 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.

Goodlatte wants the supercommittee go “go big,” but he did not sign a bipartisan letter issued last week calling for a big deal that would include new revenues. 

He said he did not support the letter because he believes in the ATR pledge. 

“I am not interested in net tax increases,” he said. “I say that because I believe in the policy. I don’t say that because of any person, although I certainly respect the views of these groups.”

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