All 47 Republican senators support adding a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution, announced Senators Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) in a op-ed for the Wall Street Journal .
“With our federal debt exceeding $14 trillion – nearly 100 percent of our gross domestic product – fiscal calamity is jeopardizing our standard of living and undermining our national security,” warn Snowe and DeMint.
While President Obama and congressional leaders are currently working on a plan to reduce deficit spending by about $4 trillion over ten years, Snowe and DeMint worry it won't be enough.
“Whatever agreement is reached, everyone will know that future Congresses are not obligated to follow it,” they said.
A balanced budget amendment will work, argue Snowe and DeMint.
“By amending the Constitution, Congress will be forever bound to match our nation's expenditures with our revenues. Toothless resolutions and statutory speed bumps have proven easy to evade or ignore. Indeed, the reason many lawmakers don't want a balanced budget amendment is the exact reason why we need it: It would permanently end the types of legislative trickery that have now brought our country to the fiscal brink. ”
Writing the op-ed with DeMint may be good politics for Snowe as well. Snowe will likely face two primary challengers in the next election. Conservatives are upset with Snowe for voting in favor of the 2009 stimulus bill. Sharing an op-ed with DeMint, a Tea Party favorite, may help boost her conservative credentials.
Polling shows strong public support for a balanced budget amendment. Most recently, a Sachs/Mason-Dixon poll showed 65 percent of the public approving of a balanced budget amendment.
Congress tried to pass a balanced budget amendment in 1995 after the Republican's dramatic victory in the 1994 elections. A balanced budget amendment was part of the House Republican's “Contract With America,” which they promised to pass in the first 100 days in office. The amendment easily passed the House, but failed in the Senate by only one vote. The Senate tried again in 1997, but again fell one vote short.
The procedures to amend the U.S. Constitution can be found in Article V. Congress can propose an amendment with a two-third vote in both the House and the Senate. The amendment would then need to be ratified by the approval of at least three-fourths of state legislatures or state ratifying conventions.