Less than 24 hours after the President’s top spokesman made an unusually harsh denunciation of a Balanced Budget Amendment by saying the U.S. debt crisis is “not a constitutional issue” and calling an amendment “not good for the economy” in response to a question posed by HUMAN EVENTS, Republican members of the House and Senate returned fire at the attack on one of their most-sought-after goals.
With the President set to meet with congressional leaders of both parties to work out a budget agreement that will secure support for lifting the debt ceiling in August, the strong language used by Press Secretary Jay Carney at a Friday briefing clearly angered Republican lawmakers—almost all of whom have weighed in for a Balanced Budget Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. From senior senators such as Orrin Hatch (Utah) to many of the Tea Party-backed freshmen in the House, Republicans on Capitol Hill defended the proposal against its dismissal by the White House.
“The Constitution belongs to the people,” declared Hatch, a co-sponsor of the proposed Balanced Budget Amendment (which is endorsed by all 46 of his GOP colleagues in the Senate). “They get to determine what is a constitutional issue—not the White House.”
“If the debt isn’t a constitutional issue, as the White House claims,” Hatch continued, “why is it that every state in the union but Vermont has a constitutional balanced budget requirement?”
Hatch went on to charge that the “only reason this administration doesn’t want a constitutional amendment is because they want to keep spending the American people’s money. Senate Republicans will force a vote on this amendment—the question is how many Democrats will join us in making sure we never see a debt crisis like this again?”
To Carney’s criticism that an amendment “doesn’t answer the problem,” freshman Rep. Todd Rokita (R,-Ind.) said: “Fundamental change to the way Washington budgets and spends is essential. A Balanced Budget Amendment is the best way to force the permanent reform necessary to prevent reckless politicians from spending our nation into ruin to advance their own political interests at the expense of our children’s future.”
As to the tone of Carney’s response, Rokita said: The fact that [HUMAN EVENTS White House Correspondent John] Gizzi was cut off while trying to ask his question must mean he hit a nerve.”
Another freshman Republican, Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (Tenn.), said he wasn’t surprised at Carney’s answer. In his words, “This is a President who has spent money at record levels since the day he took office, and this is a President whose actions have been the complete opposite of his words. Today the White House finally told the truth—they are not interested in any serious attempts to bring the federal budget under control or govern with any fiscal responsibility.”
To no one’s surprise, the strongest language of all in responding to Carney came from freshman Rep. Joe Walsh (R.-Ill.), the first “Tea Party” GOPer to win a primary in 2010 and an outspoken critic of fellow Illinoisan Barack Obama.
“For a President who has quadrupled in less than three years the debt that George W. Bush ran up during his eight years in office, any opinion he would have on a Balanced Budget Amendment should not be taken that seriously,” Walsh told HUMAN EVENTS as he prepared to board a flight back to his suburban Chicago district Friday evening.
Walsh, a co-sponsor of HR 1 (the House version of the Balanced Budget Amendment), also said he was “disappointed with the Republican leadership for sitting down with someone whose failure at leadership has destroyed a considerable part of the private sector economy. Our leadership should simply stand firm behind major spending cuts, cutting taxes across the board, simplifying the tax code, and, yes, a Balanced Budget Amendment.”
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