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Snowe: 'No greater duty' than balanced budget amendment

Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) used the weekly Republican address to push hard for a balanced budget amendment, arguing there is “no greater duty” facing the Congress than to pass it.

The need for a balanced federal budget is evident given the state of the nation’s finances, which proves that Congress cannot control itself when it comes to responsible budgeting, Snowe said.

“If Congress were capable of doing its job, it wouldn’t have added nearly $10 trillion to our national debt since 1997, the year a balanced budget amendment failed to pass the Senate by just a single vote,” she said. “Just imagine where we would be today, if we had accomplished then what we must achieve now.”

The Senate is set to take up two versions of a balanced budget amendment before the end of the year.  One is sponsored by all Senate Republicans and chosen by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), and another is authored by Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.). The debt limit agreement reached this summer stipulates that the Senate must hold a vote on such an amendment by the end of the year.

However, neither measure is expected to pass, given the need to obtain two-thirds approval by the body to be added to the Constitution. The House last month failed to pass its version of the amendment, despite GOP efforts to appeal to Democrats. Snowe used the address to push the Senate GOP’s version of the amendment.

Snowe maintained that supposedly automatic events like the upcoming $1.2 trillion in cuts that will take effect in 2013 thanks to the supercommittee’s failure can be undone by future Congress, driving the need for an amendment that binds the hinds of future Congresses.

“The real reason many lawmakers don’t want a balanced budget amendment is the exact reason why it’s so essential.  They don’t want their hands tied; they want to continue to spend without restraint,” she said.

The lawmaker called on the public to pressure lawmakers to support such an amendment, and that the need to justify it should now give way to demands for explanations for why there isn’t one.

“In typical Washington fashion, they’re hoping you won’t notice this historic vote is occurring,” she said. “They are banking on you thinking it doesn’t matter.

“With the national debt at $15 trillion and rising, let me suggest there are 15 trillion reasons to prove them wrong.  Fifteen trillion reasons to make a stand,” she added.