The case for tying debt limit to balanced budget amendment 

National Review‘s Robert Costa has a nice piece up today on Sen. Mike Lee’s (R-Utah) campaign to tie passage of a Balanced Budget Amendment to the debt ceiling vote:

Lee’s dogged pursuit of a balanced-budget amendment, however, faces hurdles inside the Senate GOP conference, where all senators support the proposal, but many are wary of using it as a bargaining chip.

Sen. Bob Corker (R., Tenn.) and Sen. Claire McCaskill (D., Mo.) recently proposed bipartisan legislation to cap federal spending levels at 20.6 percent of GDP. They are looking to tether their bill to the debt-ceiling vote, giving members of both parties another pinched-fist option.

While Lee applauds Corker’s work, he worries that statutory spending caps could be easily discarded in coming years, whereas a constitutional amendment would be arduous to pass but ultimately more effective. “You cannot bind Congress, statutorily, in a way that will survive for the long haul,” he says. “Congress could just repeal the parts that it finds the most onerous.”

Corker’s bill, Lee notes, is modeled after the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Balanced Budget Act of 1985. “We have to remember that Gramm-Rudman-Hollings didn’t make it more than about five years before Congress essentially repealed it, watering it down, and then it eventually fell off of the map,” he says. “This is the wrong entrée into a debt-ceiling increase because it is not sufficiently permanent.”

Lee is dead right about the ability of this Congress to bind future ones. You can read University of Chicago law professor Eric Posner explain why here. And BBA supporters also have a line of attack against those who would rather make spending cuts their top priority in debt limit talks. Their argument goes something like, “We can’t trust the folks we trusted last time,” a reference to the $38 billion in cuts that somehow turned out to be only $352 million. Don’t know how well that argument will play on the House side.

About The Author

Conn Carroll

Pin It

More by Conn Carroll

Latest in Nation

© 2018 The San Francisco Examiner

Website powered by Foundation