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Tea Party Senators Leveraging Debt Ceiling for a Balanced Budget Amendment

April 26, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

The upcoming debt ceiling increase is pretty much the ultimate must-pass bill. If Congress doesn’t pass it, it’s not just that some programs would be put on hold or that some federal workers would be furloughed; the entire economy would collapse much more deeply than in 2008, and we would have no chance of recovery since our international credit worthiness, our principle financial asset, would be permanently ruined. Of course, every member of Congress knows that the debt ceiling increase has to be passed. That’s why they’re hoping to use it as a means to pass other legislation that they know cannot stand on its own.

Fox News reports that Senate Republicans are planning to filibuster the debt ceiling increase unless the Senate passes a constitutional balanced budget amendment:

Guided by their belief that the nation is headed for a long-term fiscal calamity, Republicans are promising a fight — one that may make the battle earlier this spring over government funding resolutions look small in comparison.

Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., vows to “tie the Senate in knots” unless it passes a balanced budget amendment. And while he and Senate Republicans may lack the votes for passage, they wield some leverage — Democrats need some Republican support to raise the debt ceiling.


All 47 Senate Republicans have signed a pledge to vote for it, and there are indications that as many as nine or 10 Senate Democrats may be leaning towards yes votes, too.

The last time a balanced budget amendment was introduced in the Senate, in 1997, it failed by just one vote.

Proponents believe the public pressure for such an amendment has grown enormously since those years.

The Republicans’ balanced budget amendment is S.J.Res.10.

Besides requiring budgets to spend no more than they bring in in revenues, it would cap federal spending at 18% of GDP, which you can see in the graph at right is a level not seen since the early 1930s. It would also make it more difficult to balance the budget by raising taxes or closing tax loopholes by requiring a 2/3rds majority vote in both chambers for “any bill that imposes a new tax or increases the statutory rate of any tax.”

As difficult as it is to pass a constitutional amendment (both chambers must pass it with 2/3rds majority), the Republicans have the advantage here. It only takes two or three senators working together to filibuster a bill to death. The balanced budget amendment has the support of 47 Republicans, so DeMint can likely get help from othe Tea Party members, like Sen. Rand Paul [R, KY] and Sen. Mike Lee [R, UT], or Sen. Orrin Hatch [R, UT], the amendment’s chief sponsor. And note that DeMint doesn’t just want a vote on the amendment; he is threatening a filibuster unless the amendment actually passes.

QUICK UPDATE: Sen. Lee has already pledged to filibuster the debt ceiling vote unless a balanced budget amendment passes. Game on.

Sens. DeMint and Paul are pictured above, pledging their allegiace to the flag, at a Tea Party Caucus meeting.

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Displaying 31-40 of 40 total comments.

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  • luminous 04/29/2011 12:02am

    “Who wants to ferry citizens across the border to get MRI’s because it’s quicker like Canada does?”

    You understand their system pays for those right?, those trips are not out of pocket!, Their a Nation with 1/10 the population of our Nation I don’t see anything odd about some Medical tourism, more then enough Americans head to Asia and other places for “traditional” cures nothing funny here we have lots of excellent doctors and hospitals after all(for those that have the green anyway).

    “Why should we imitate that when it’s not working?”

    Ehh? The next closest first world Nation in spending is half of what we spend(France FYI). Second in the case of the French system they have better outcomes, longer life spans, shorter avg waiting times, and vastly more options in providers, in addition to a public insurance they can opt out and choose a highly regulated private plan as well, Their system is an All payer system not a single payer system.

    Hows that “not working”?

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  • luminous 04/29/2011 1:07am

    I did say that, however I will note that most Canadians can get to an American hospital in less then a few hours drive so its not so much in the same category.

    The French system is really neat, it has the standard features of a universal system, that is their is taxes provide all French citizens with a basic minimum policy which they can obtain via their public option, however they can opt out and choose a private plan.

    And the big difference from most other systems is their (not sure what they call it mind you) adverse risk insurance. Now this isn’t an insurance for people its an insurance for the insurance companies. They all pay into it(including the public option) and it pays out to equalize the average cost of each patient for services covered under the basic minimum.

    Their is no incentive to kick people out because their ill, in fact the incentive is shifted to maximizing the customer base and customer retention.

    cont.. grumbles about 1000char limit

  • luminous 04/29/2011 1:19am

    Now the insurance companies their can either use the government negotiated public option rates, or choose to negotiate their own. So their not at a disadvantage to the public option.

    France also bans claim denial to doctors for services covered under the basic req, that is if they dispute a claim they have to recover the costs from the patient not burden the doctors staff.

    Also you can buy as much insurance above the basic minimum as you want, so their not limited if they want more then the basic plan. Now in most single payer systems(incl Canada) you are able to buy supplemental insurance, but the French approach is likely more effective for service availability.

    Now the French(All Payer) system doesn’t obtain all the savings that single payer does, bulk payments and global budgeting save an epic ton of money, but it seems to be a good compromise with the ideals of America and the realities of a global economy.

  • luminous 04/29/2011 1:20am

    ott, when they opt out then can take a voucher equal to the cost of the basic policy to the plan of their choice!!

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