21 GOP Senators Back Bill to Raise Debt Limit–But Only in Exchange For Balanced Budget Amendment

Sen. Mike Lee

Sen. Mike Lee (R.-Utah) announcing the introducting of the Cut, Cap and Balance Act on July 7, 2011. (Congressional photo)

(CNSNews.com) – Senators Mike Lee (R-Utah), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.)–backed by 18 other Republican Senate co-sponsors–announced on Thursday that they were introducing legislation to increase the debt limit by $2.4 trillion–but only in exchange for spending cuts that would cut the deficit in half next year and for a balanced budget amendment that would cap federal spending at 18 percent of GDP and require a supermajority in Congress to raise taxes.

The bill is called the “Cut, Cap, and Balance Act.”

Lee said that a constitutional amendment capping federal spending was needed because simple legislation calling for spending cuts in future years can be undone by the Congresses that govern in future years.

“It’s a move that we believe is absolutely necessary because many of us believe that we can’t bind a future Congress, and because we can’t bind a future Congress through a simple legislative act, through a simple statute, a promise to cut $3 or $4 billion right now  in order to make, sort of, a down payment on the debt limit increase, is a promise that could become illusory if it’s not accompanied by something else,” said Lee.

“One way that we can bind a future Congress, one that’s not in power now, is through a constitutional amendment,” he said. “We’re identifying here today that this is one way that we could raise the debt limit.”

Lee also said that while some of the bill’s supporters had pledged that they would not vote to raise the debt limit unless cut-cap-and-balance legislation was passed, others had not. All were in agreement, however, he said, that the Cut, Cap, and Balance Act was one way the debt ceiling could be raised.

“We’re identifying here today that this is one way that we could raise the debt limit,” Lee said at a Capitol Hill press conference on Thursday. “Some of us have signed a pledge saying that we would not raise the debt limit unless the conditions presented have been satisfied. I’m one of those people. Others among us have not signed that pledge, but have indicated that they would be willing to raise the debt limit in this circumstance.”

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), one of the senators who has not conditioned his debt limit vote on the Cut, Cap, and Balance legislation, said that the bill would create the “structural changes” needed to solve the country’s fiscal problems.

“I was one of the people who didn’t want to sign and don’t intend to sign a pledge that says what I won’t do, but this is a bill that says what I would do,” Blunt said. “This bill does the things that begin to create the structural changes that we have to have if we’re not going to pursue business as usual.”

Brent Bozell, president of ForAmerica, one of the conservative organizations behind the Cut, Cap, and Balance effort, praised the Republican senators for showing “real leadership” on the debt issue.

“I applaud all the senators who today signed on and are introducing a bill that puts Cut, Cap, and Balance on the path to becoming the law of the land,” Bozell said in a statement.

“This is serious, responsible legislation that is being considered in the debate over our country’s economic and financial crisis,” he said. “The bill truly gets to the heart of fixing the fiscal mess and its passage into law would avert a nation-shattering catastrophe brought on by the irresponsible, wasteful spending binge that has gone on for too long in Washington.”

According to the Republican Study Committee, the legislation would do the following:

1) Cut – Immediate spending cuts to reduce the deficit by half next year. According to March projections from the Congressional Budget Office, this would require spending cuts of approximately $380 billion in the 2012 fiscal year.

2) Cap – Statutory, enforceable caps that bring spending into line with average revenues at 18% of GDP. Reps. Kingston and Mack have each introduced legislation that would ratchet total federal spending down to 18% of GDP over the course of 5-6 years.

3) Balance – House and Senate passage of a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution that includes a spending cap at 18% of GDP and a supermajority requirement for tax increases. The House Judiciary Committee and all 47 GOP Senators have endorsed Balanced Budget Amendments along these lines.

“None of us wants to raise the debt ceiling,” said Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) at Thursday’s announcement. “None of us think it’s a good idea to spend money we don’t have. We think it’s a problem that we’ve been doing it for so long. But we also think there would be some circumstance under which we would borrow more money.”

“And to me, that circumstance is you have to have a real plan, a binding plan that says we will do things differently, that we can be trusted with the taxpayers’ money, that we can be trusted to balance the budget,” said Paul. “And for me that means we have to have an amendment to the Constitution. I see no objective evidence that Congress is otherwise proving themselves to be trustworthy.”

The debt limit is the amount of money the federal government can legally borrow. That limit, $14.29 trillion, was reached on May 16. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has advised that Congress must pass an increase in the debt limit by Aug. 2 or the government potentially could face default on some of its debt.

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden have been meeting with congressional leaders of both parties to try to work out a deal to raise the debt limit that would include cuts in spending and no tax increases.

Brent Bozell of ForAmerica is also president of the Media Research Center, the parent organization of CNSNews.com.

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