It’s time for a balanced budget amendment, says … Democrat Mark Udall

posted at 6:20 pm on February 1, 2011 by Allahpundit

I’m honestly shocked, and not just because after clips like this my expectations for fiscal sanity among Democrats are absolute zero. Two noteworthy aspects here. First, Udall may be from a purple state (Colorado) but he’s not up for reelection in 2012. He’s safe until 2014. Why he’s sponsoring this now is therefore unclear to me, unless (a) the deficit is now so politically radioactive that vulnerable Democrats are trying to get ahead of it almost four years before election day or (b) this guy is honestly committed to reining in spending on the merits. I feel like we’ve stumbled upon a unicorn grazing in the forest: Why, it’s a Blue Dog who really is serious about shrinking government. They exist.

The second reason? This is a mighty bold move with the showdown on the debt ceiling just weeks away. A balanced budget amendment is one of the core demands of allegedly “crazy” tea partiers like Rand Paul and Mike Lee in exchange for agreeing to vote to raise the ceiling. Udall’s given them some valuable leverage here in being able to claim bipartisan support for a BBA.

Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) announced Tuesday that he will co-sponsor a Constitutional amendment requiring a balanced federal budget. He is the first Democrat to sponsor such a measure in many years.

Udall is introducing his balanced budget amendment bill with Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.). The bill would require that spending not exceed revenue in any given year…

The Udall bill would also limit federal spending to the historical average of 20 percent of gross domestic product in a given year. It currently stands at 24.7 percent…

The Udall bill would allow Congress, through three-fifths votes in both houses, to waive the balanced budget requirement. In this way it differs from a rival GOP balanced budget bill, sponsored by Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) with 23 co-sponsors, which would require a two-thirds vote of both Houses to exceed the 20 percent cap or to spend more than is collected in revenues.

I’d prefer no waiver option but realistically there has to be a mechanism for deficit spending during emergencies, i.e. war. I’m not thrilled with the lower threshold either — three-fifths in the Senate is what it takes to pass any bill in the age of the filibuster — but it’s a reasonably high hurdle (261 votes) for action in the House. Presumably the lower threshold is Udall’s concession to his own side, a glimmer of hope to the Reids and Pelosis of the world that they can still spend the country into financial ruin even under a BBA once the golden age of the progressive supermajority finally begins. Good luck with that.

Exit question: Which others Dems will join Udall on this? Ben Nelson’s polling is in the toilet and getting behind this might help pull him out. McCaskill is also highly vulnerable next cycle, although it looks like she’d prefer to handle balancing the budget with a more prosaic statutory spending cap. She and Bob Corker are co-sponsoring a bill to limit annual spending to 20.6 percent of GDP, with across-the-board cuts mandatory if Congress fails to hit the target. It’s weaker than a BBA, but surely more legislatively feasible, needless to say.


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Harry Reid is already positioning the dems against any restructure of Social security and Medicare. Gridlock ahead.

koolbrease on February 1, 2011 at 6:23 PM

maverick!

rob verdi on February 1, 2011 at 6:24 PM

Why he’s sponsoring this now is therefore unclear to me, unless (a) the deficit is now so politically radioactive that vulnerable Democrats are trying to get ahead of it almost four years before election day or (b) this guy is honestly committed to reining in spending on the merits.

How about 2012 is coming… and we all know who is throwing in for the nomination already concerning the left. They are trying to sweeten the road for O’Blah-Blah and he reign of terror.

upinak on February 1, 2011 at 6:24 PM

A guy who’s up for re-election in three years in a purple state is backing a popular measure he knows could never actually pass? And even if it did would be more likely to result in a collapse of military spending than any serious entitlement reform?

Let’s party.

amerpundit on February 1, 2011 at 6:24 PM

It’s not exactly a good option, or a popular one but what if we had a balanced budget amendment that kicked in fully at say 2026 for celebration of the 250th Anniversary of this nations founding. The Democrats who argue that we can’t just magically balance the budget overnight would have no room to hide, when given 15 years to get to that point and perhaps best of all for the politicians, they probably wouldn’t be the ones to vote to make the tough decisions. It’s one that would force the budget to be balanced at some point, which is better then anything that fails to pass.

amazingmets on February 1, 2011 at 6:25 PM

just like paygo.

Inanemergencydial on February 1, 2011 at 6:26 PM

Alternate headline:

Progressive heads explode across country!

csdeven on February 1, 2011 at 6:26 PM

Fiscal sanity. Could it become the norm?

Not holding my breath. It is other peoples’ money.

CWforFreedom on February 1, 2011 at 6:27 PM

Camouflage.

Like Putting Perfume on a pig.

portlandon on February 1, 2011 at 6:27 PM

Exit question: Which others Dems will join Udall on this?

none. This is just a soap box, so he can use it later and say “Look what I proposed!”

upinak on February 1, 2011 at 6:27 PM

End the Fed

Then balance the budget!

Ozprey on February 1, 2011 at 6:27 PM

Ben Nelson’s polling is in the toilet and getting behind this might help pull him out.

No, it won’t. Nothing will. Dead man walking.

a capella on February 1, 2011 at 6:29 PM

Udall/Paul 2012…

mjbrooks3 on February 1, 2011 at 6:29 PM

0bozo’s presidency will soon be rendered null and void.

moonbatkiller on February 1, 2011 at 6:30 PM

MSNBC: Sitting with them fine, but thinking like them?!

mjbrooks3 on February 1, 2011 at 6:31 PM

I really don’t know anything about Udall. Could be he really is concerned and this bill is an honest attempt to stop the runaway train.

I’m wary. Democrats always say or do something to distract while stabbing you in the back. It never fails.

darwin on February 1, 2011 at 6:34 PM

Waiver is necessary in case of war extreme natural disasters(or the coming alien invasion.

What they really need is a 3/5 majority in both houses to raise taxes. Sometimes conservatives seem to eager to support BB amendments, but they are back door to taxes hikes just as much as spending cuts. Conservatives just assume that budgets will be balanced with spending cuts.

Need a BB amendment with 3/5 super majority for tax hikes.

swamp_yankee on February 1, 2011 at 6:34 PM

First of all, he’s up for re-election in a purple state in three years. Announcing support now, after he voted to massively increase government spending and created new entitlements, allows him to frame himself as a party-bucking, fiscal conservative come his next campaign.

Second, he knows the amendment will never pass — at least not for several years. We’re talking about a constitutional amendment here: It requires the support of two-thirds of both houses, and then has to be ratified by three-fourths of the states. Good luck getting all of that done before 2014 — especially with Reid controlling the Senate until at least until 2013.

Third, the amendment doesn’t specify how the budget has to be balanced — just that it has to be balanced. With Senator Reid saying reforming Social Security is off the table, how exactly do you balance the budget? Unless you make small adjustments to other entitlement programs and then gut areas like defense. But even that’s a stretch.

Finally, Udall is asking for an out for the amendment. Specifically, a three-fifths vote in both chambers would permit Congress to run deficits. With Democrats refusing to budge on entitlements and there being no real way to balance the budget without entitlement reform, the choice presented to Congress will be to overrule the amendment or let grandma go without food. Figure out what happens next.

So, basically Udall is proposing something that even if implemented would realistically achieve nothing thanks to the steadfast opposition of his fellow Democrats to reform entitlements. So why propose it? Because again, he wants to reshape his image as party-bucking, fiscally conservative senator worthy of another six years in Washington.

You’ll pardon my lack of celebration.

amerpundit on February 1, 2011 at 6:36 PM

So where was this fiscal boldness 2 years ago?

chickasaw42 on February 1, 2011 at 6:39 PM

So where was this fiscal boldness 2 years ago?

chickasaw42 on February 1, 2011 at 6:39 PM

Very good question?..:)

Dire Straits on February 1, 2011 at 6:41 PM

The other way to balance the budget without reforming entitlements would be to significantly increase taxes. Democrats could frame it as their hand being forced by the amendment. But don’t worry, we’ll totally reform those entitlements later on. Sometime. Maybe. Or not. For now, higher taxes. Because the constitutional requires it.

amerpundit on February 1, 2011 at 6:42 PM

amerpundit on February 1, 2011 at 6:42 PM

Bingo. It’s a trap, folks. Don’t fall for it.

Buy Danish on February 1, 2011 at 6:51 PM

I prefer that it take 50% plus and additional 2% for each year since we had zero debt.

Translation: If the US were last debt free five years ago, it would require 50% + 10% or 60% for spending to exceed revenue. If it had been 15 year then it would take 80% or if it had been 25 years then it would take 110% plus one vote (not possible) to borrow more money.

One exception:
If we are in a real war, with a draft and the children of congressmen are being drafted.

The Rock on February 1, 2011 at 6:53 PM

over/under on the number of days he caves?

Hummer53 on February 1, 2011 at 6:56 PM

yeah, Udall was strongly supported by Obama…he’s one of the guys.

It is all about taxes…however much they need to “run the country”. Obamacare will require massive tax increases.

The deficits go up in the out years in Barry’s budget…they NEED the money.

r keller on February 1, 2011 at 6:59 PM

I’m honestly shocked, and not just because after clips like this my expectations for fiscal sanity among Democrats are absolute zero. Two noteworthy aspects here. First, Udall may be from a purple state (Colorado) but he’s not up for reelection in 2012. He’s safe until 2014.
================================================

Sumpin ain’t right!

canopfor on February 1, 2011 at 7:01 PM

Balanced Budget to a DemoCRAP means raise tax rates to 91% with no cuts. Thanks but no thanks Markie Mark.

angryed on February 1, 2011 at 7:03 PM

The other way to balance the budget without reforming entitlements would be to significantly increase taxes. Democrats could frame it as their hand being forced by the amendment. But don’t worry, we’ll totally reform those entitlements later on. Sometime. Maybe. Or not. For now, higher taxes. Because the constitutional requires it.

amerpundit on February 1, 2011 at 6:42 PM

Balanced budget amendment forbids this. Except with 3/4 vote or formal declaration of war IIRC.

clement on February 1, 2011 at 7:07 PM

Mark Udall is actually a pretty nice guy and fairly honest, for a politician. His seat is safe even in 2014, unless he’s redistricted, he’s very popular. He comes from the People’s Republic of Boulder area (he lives in Eldorado Springs). Not to mention that we have an abysmal record of finding good solid conservative opponents lately that don’t have some dirt lurking in their closets.

The Udalls are a political family dynasty, Mark’s cousin Tom is a senator from New Mexico, Tom’s dad was a rep from Arizona as was Mark’s dad. Cousin Gordon Smith is a senator from Oregon. They have strong Mormon family ties to the Romneys.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Udall_family

I can believe that he has good intentions of actually dealing with the budget issue, but I’m pretty skeptical of any politician.

Common Sense on February 1, 2011 at 7:08 PM

He’s a Dem. That means he cannot be trusted under any circumstances. Who knows what he’s up to. He may have some long range goal that is indescernable at this time. If we can use him to advance fiscal sanity, great, but he must be watched, and distrusted as if he were…. John McCain.

JimP on February 1, 2011 at 7:11 PM

A balanced budget amendment is one of the core demands of allegedly “crazy” tea partiers like Rand Paul and Mike Lee in exchange for agreeing to vote to raise the ceiling. Udall’s given them some valuable leverage here in being able to claim bipartisan support for a BBA.

Political trivia: Utah Senator Mike Lee (R) and Colorado Senator Mark Udall (D) are second cousins. Lee is also second cousin to New Mexico Senator Tom Udall (D). The two Udalls are themselves first cousins. All three Senators are second cousins to former Oregon Senator Gordon Smith (R).

steebo77 on February 1, 2011 at 7:16 PM

steebo77 on February 1, 2011 at 7:16 PM

Good thing we overthrew the monarchy.

angryed on February 1, 2011 at 7:22 PM

a Constitutional amendment requiring a balanced federal budget

Ain’t ever gonna happen. Just look at most state budgets. You think those idiots want to start something that could be imposed on them?

I can see the ruling elite in Sacramento ROTFLTAO!

GarandFan on February 1, 2011 at 7:23 PM

three-fifths in the Senate is what it takes to pass any bill in the age of the filibuster

Seriously? Why would any modern American politician want to be associated with that particular fractional ratio? Why not just go with the 2/3?

lizzie beth on February 1, 2011 at 7:23 PM

A balanced budget amendment would be nothing more than a gimmick. There would be conditions in the law that would allow for over-spending, and those conditions would exist every year, for perpetuity.

Instead of a balanced budget amendment, we just need a balanced budget.

oakland on February 1, 2011 at 7:25 PM

Common Sense on February 1, 2011 at 7:08 PM

Actually, Common Sense, he’s a Senator, so redistricting doesn’t come into play. Other than that you’re correct. I’m in Colorado, and he is from a liberal area (Jared Polis is the representative from there) and he’s the one who initiated the SOTU date night, so not sure what he’s up to. He and Bennet (the other CO senator) have run ads saying how we need to get the fiscal house in order, and we Coloradans on the right yell at the TV saying “now you think so!” Also, he’s a Dem, so I am unable to believe he has good intentions. I’m guessing it’s a trap.

DougV on February 1, 2011 at 7:47 PM

Dude! Don’t fall for the smokescreen!

He’s in a vulnerable seat, so he’s being allowed talk the talk that none of the other Dems will back up.

He’s baiting squishes and RINOs :)

RocketmanBob on February 1, 2011 at 7:52 PM

Mark Udall is no Blue Dog. He’s a Boulder liberal, through and through. He pretends to be responsible….and isn’t.

Andy in Colorado on February 1, 2011 at 8:09 PM

This BBA stuff is BAD BS.

There is a balanced budget requirement in the Preamble of the Constitution — Preserve the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our posterity. This means don’t soak future generations with bills to pay for this generations excesses. Each generation should pay for it’s own way without overtly taking the liberty from anyone — every able bodied should have a iron in the fire of paying for that which they benefit.

The problem with ALL balanced budget amendments they don’t have a generational perspective. They’ll continue to abuse future generation’s liberty to pay for current generation’s excesses and promises.

Plus, the history of CA with a super majority to raise taxes/balance the budget is it promotes the election of more and more tax and spenders, not more and more tax cutters. The tax and spenders can hide behind the spin of “if not for the mean conservatives, you could have free health care” and get easily elected. Before long, the supermajority threshold is easily breached and spending continues unabated. It’s all the law of unintended consequences.

ANY BBA that doesn’t include a serious dose of generational responsibility is just another way of one generation enslaving another’s to pay for it’s own benefits…

drfredc on February 1, 2011 at 8:52 PM

Preamble is not binding.

andy85719 on February 1, 2011 at 9:13 PM

The Udall bill would also limit federal spending to the historical average of 20 percent of gross domestic product in a given year.

I suppose that’s better than what we have now, but it’s not great. In fact, government revenues have never topped 19% of GDP. So even here, it’s perpetual deficit spending.

Squiggy on February 2, 2011 at 6:42 AM

If Udall’s lips were moving when he said this, he’s lying!

kens on February 2, 2011 at 12:54 PM

Bingo. It’s a trap, folks. Don’t fall for it.

Buy Danish on February 1, 2011 at 6:51 PM

Of course it is. Anyone in the middle who leans fiscally conservative and buys into bullshi! like this to support Udall is a fool. He’s a politicians son who spent 20 years on vacation climbing mountains and now wants to run Colorado.

He’s a clown.

Jaibones on February 2, 2011 at 6:40 PM