|Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R.-Utah)|
The senior senator from Utah in a Nov. 2 interview with HUMAN EVENTS urged conservatives to support his Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution for the vote promised in the Budget Control Act of 2011.
“This country faces a historic spending problem that threatens the liberty and prosperity of all Americans,” said Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R.-Utah), who wrote his amendment with his Utah Republican colleague and co-sponsor, Sen. Michael S. Lee.
The Budget Control Act was a compromise between the two parties in Congress and President Barack H. Obama Jr., enacted Aug. 2 after a standoff over whether or not to raise the federal debt limit.
In addition to the guaranteed vote in each chamber for a constitutional amendment aimed at eliminating the gap between revenues and spending, the act created the Joint Select Committee on Debt Reduction, or Super Committee, tasked with cutting back the increase in spending over the next 10 years by at least $1.2 trillion.
If an amendment passes both houses with a two-thirds majority, it becomes part of the Constitution upon its ratification by three-fourths of the states. The President has no official role.
“The Senate’s ‘consensus’ Balanced Budget Amendment is a real victory for conservatives. All 47 Republicans in the Senate support this amendment,” Hatch said. The senator formally filed his bill Jan. 26 with his other lead sponsor, Sen. John Cornyn III (R.-Tex.).
Brian H. Darling, a senior fellow for government affairs at The Heritage Foundation, said the Hatch-Lee BBA is the strongest proposal in either house, and must be the one conservatives support.
“Some Republicans in the House are tempted to present a weaker balanced budget amendment in order to win over some Democrat votes, but this is foolish,” he said. “They are negotiating against themselves,” said Darling, who worked for many years as a senate staffer.
“The GOP is united in the Senate, and they control the House, this is the best position in a generation to pass a strong BBA,” he said.
“With 22 Democratic senators up for reelection in 2012, they are under enormous pressure to vote for a BBA,” he said. “Why not force them to vote for or against the strongest bill?”
Hatch, who has been the lead sponsor or co-sponsor of 17 balanced budget amendments since his tenure in the upper chamber began in 1977, said beyond having a bill called a “balanced budget amendment,” it is important the amendment be written specifically to prevent budget tricks that would allow more spending or higher taxes.
“We need to be careful how we do that. President Obama would love to balance the budget by allowing spending to continue to skyrocket, and then taxing our way to balance,” he said.
“It caps spending at 18 percent of gross domestic product, and it establishes a supermajority requirement for tax increases. This amendment will restore constitutional limits on the size of government,” he said. GDP is the total of the country’s economic activity, absent government spending.
“I am a longstanding proponent of a BBA, and this one is the strongest one I’ve ever seen and I think it’s the one all conservatives should rally around,” he said. The bill also forbids judges from ordering tax increases by assuming the authority to enforce a balance in the case of a budget gap.
“Balancing the budget at high levels of spending through ever-higher taxes is not acceptable. The more Washington takes out of hardworking Americans’ paychecks, the less they can devote to their families, their businesses and their communities,” he said.
Hatch said the budget process has failed without the constitutional restraints that were assumed by the framers.
“We need to get this spending under control, and this amendment does that. It is not just an amendment to balance the budget,” he said.
“It is a constitutional amendment to limit the size of government. Even Democrats claim that they want to balance the budget,” he continued.
“Lastly, I want to say what a team effort it was to get this BBA where it is,” he said.
“John Cornyn, Pat Toomey and many others were instrumental in drafting it, but my friend and colleague from Utah Mike Lee deserves special praise. In addition to his legal expertise, he has helped to raise public awareness about the need for a BBA,” he said.