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Politics

Congressional Insiders Say Debt Ceiling Won't Include Balanced Budget Amendment

June 9, 2011

While Democrats were virtually united in believing that an amendment wouldn't be part of a compromise on the debt ceiling, some thought that it could contain budget restraints that fell short of a constitutional requirement. "But there could well be language that requires specific deficit reduction and, or, spending cuts," said one Democratic Congressional Insider. "A law requiring a balanced budget seems more realistic than an amendment to the Constitution," said another.

Others viewed the idea as a cop-out or impractical. "Congress is already vested with the power to lay and collect taxes and pay debts," said one Democratic Congressional Insider. "Seeking additional constitutional authority would be unduly burdensome and wholly unnecessary, and is an abdication of Congress' primary responsibility to the American public."

Republicans thought that a constitutional amendment wouldn't impose fiscal constraint fast enough. "We can't put our hopes in a constitutional amendment," said one GOP Congressional Insider. "It's a great idea but we've got to have cuts now and can't wait through the amendment process." Echoed another, "It is too slow and too uncertain a tool to impose discipline on Congress' spending behavior." And another Republican Congressional Insider added, "Although I support systemic reforms, their price from the Senate and White House would limit our ability to get cuts today."

Some Republicans felt that a constitutional amendment was unrealistic and that there were more practical options to stem the government's red ink. "Democrats will not accept a straight jacket on future spending nor will Republicans accept a trigger for future taxes," said one GOP Congressional Insider. "There are no silver bullets that will save us from tough decisions every year. That is the nature of self-government." Said another, "While it is a good idea, I think spending caps and cuts are more likely than a balanced budget amendment."

The National Journal Congressional Insiders Poll is a regular anonymous survey of Democratic and Republican members of Congress.

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