Exclusive: Moderate Democrats renew calls for balanced budget amendment as spending deal nears

Exclusive: Moderate Democrats renew calls for balanced budget amendment as spending deal nears
© Greg Nash

A group of fiscally conservative Democrats is expected to release a fiscal reform plan Thursday that includes a call for a constitutional balanced budget amendment.

“We are putting forward policies that increase transparency and hold Congress accountable to taxpayers,” said Rep. Ben McAdams (D-Utah), who co-chairs the moderate Blue Dog Coalition’s fiscal task force.

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“It is past time for a serious conversation about reducing deficits and debt and returning the federal budget to a sustainable path,” he added.

The Blue Dogs first endorsed a balanced budget amendment in April.

The development comes as Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiAre Democrats turning Trump-like? Pelosi hits Trump, Netanyahu for 'weakness' amid tensions over Omar and Tlaib In Hong Kong, the need for peaceful persistence MORE (D-Calif.) and Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinTrump phoned bank CEOs as stock market plunged Wednesday: report The Hill's Morning Report — Trump and the new Israel-'squad' controversy Trump pressured Mnuchin on labeling China a currency manipulator: report MORE are nearing a deal to raise spending caps for 2019 and 2020 in a plan that could add as much as $175 billion to the deficit over two years.

The Blue Dogs' plan, a copy of which was obtained by The Hill, provides exceptions to balanced budgets for war and recession in an attempt to address a common concern: the need for fiscal stimulus during tough times.

It also embraces other mechanisms for keeping deficits in line, such as restricting congressional pay and travel in the event that budget and spending bills are not passed on time, and sets money aside in a “rainy day fund” to address future emergencies.

It would also pressure members of Congress on spending by requiring roll-call votes for bills spending over $100 million and requiring separate votes on waiving pay-as-you-go rules.

“It is no stretch to maintain that at no point in our nation’s history have we operated our federal government in as fiscally irresponsible a manner,” said Rep. Ed CaseEdward (Ed) CaseMORE (D-Hawaii), the other co-chair of the Blue Dog fiscal task force.

The national debt has grown past $22 trillion under President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump watching 'very closely' as Portland braces for dueling protests WaPo calls Trump admin 'another threat' to endangered species Are Democrats turning Trump-like? MORE, and the White House expects that this year’s deficit will surpass $1 trillion, returning to levels not seen since the immediate aftermath of the Great Recession.

But the Blue Dog proposal seems unlikely to advance. Last year, a bicameral, bipartisan committee to reform the budget failed to agree on a set of recommendations. Democrats blocked some of the same proposals the Blue Dog Coalition endorsed on Thursday, such as penalties for members of Congress for failing to follow regular order in the budget process.

It also faces challenges from the party’s progressive flank, some of whom went to battle against Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in January over proposed pay-as-you-go rules.

Fiscal conservatives have watched with some concern as Democratic presidential candidates have proposed multitrillion-dollar campaign proposals, only some of which have included methods to pay for the spending.