Conservative groups: Balanced budget plan is price for debt hike

Conservative groups are vowing to force lawmakers to adopt a balanced budget plan before passing any increase in the nation’s debt ceiling.

The Club for Growth and Heritage Action said that establishing a path to a balanced budget within 10 years will be their demand in the looming fight between congressional Republicans and President Obama.

The nation hits its $16.4 trillion debt ceiling on May 19. The Treasury Department, however, should be able to take extraordinary measures to avoid immediately defaulting on payment obligations.

The new pressure from conservative groups comes as House GOP leaders are discussing measures that would tie a hike in the debt limit to tax reform legislation and additional spending cuts. President Obama, however, has said he will not negotiate over the debt ceiling, urging Republicans to raise the limit without preconditions.

In 2011, Obama was forced by congressional Republicans to accept dollar-for-dollar cuts to the federal budget over ten years for a $2.1 billion increase in the debt ceiling, a move he has said was a mistake.

Club spokesman Barney Keller confirmed to The Hill that a “path to [a] balanced budget within 10 years,” is the Club’s stance in the new debt fight. The Club had made a similar demand in January when Washington last dealt with an approaching debt limit.

The debt ceiling was increased then when the Senate and Obama accepted a bill that included a provision withholding lawmaker pay if each chamber failed to produce a budget. The Senate quickly adopted their first budget in four years.

House conservatives agreed to the “No Budget, No Pay” solution in January in exchange for promises that the House 2014 budget would balance within ten years, that the sequester would be allowed to go into effect unless replaced only with spending cuts, and that GOP leaders would try to use the next debt ceiling increase to get the House budget adopted.

Conservatives refer to the deal as the Williamsburg Accord after the January conference where the House legislative agenda was hatched.

“That was the expectation coming out of Williamsburg … to fight to enact policies that put us on path to ten year balance,” said Dan Holler of Heritage Action.

Holler said his group will increase pressure in the coming weeks for the House to insist on a path to balance before the next debt ceiling increase.

In 2011, the House passed a Cut, Cap and Balance bill to put the country on the road to a balanced budget, but the Senate rejected it leading to the last minute debt ceiling negotiations that ultimately produced $2.1 billion in cuts.

The August 2011 cuts came in two phases — hard caps on appropriations over a decade and the creation of a supercommittee to propose more cuts, backed by a sequestration trigger if they failed.

When the supercommittee was unable to agree on $1.2 trillion in deficit cuts in 2011, the across-the-board sequester cuts were triggered, going into effect March 1 of this year.