A group of Republican senators unveiled two new proposals this morning aimed at curbing the deficit and reducing government expenditures.
The measures--a one-year moratorium on earmarks and a constitutional balanced budget amendment--could require deep cuts in spending if enacted.
Forty-nine state have balanced budget amendments, which, if applied to the federal government, would prevent Congress from running any kind of annual deficit. Such proposals often lead to steep spending cuts in the states when tax revenue drops. Supporters say such a requirement is the only way to force legislatures to make tough decisions about cutting programs.
The amendment would also require a two-thirds vote to raise taxes.
"I believe, now more than ever, the only way Congress will ever really balance the budget is with a Constitutional amendment requiring us to do so,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).
Graham sponsored the proposals along with Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), George LeMieux (R-Fla.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), James Risch (R-Idaho) and John Ensign (R-Nevada.)
The constiutional amendment would have to pass both the House and Senate by a two-thirds vote and be ratified by two-thirds of the states. The ban on deficits could be waived during special circumstances--such as a time of war--by a two-thirds vote in both chambers.
The earmark moratorium was proposed earlier this year but defeated in the Senate by a vote of 29-71. President Obama suported such a moratorium during the 2008 campaign.
"Earmarks are the gateway drug to spending addiction in Washington," said Cobrun. "A one-year earmark moratorium and a Balanced Budget Amendment are two ways Congress could begin its journey toward fiscal sobriety and responsibility."