Thursday, March 31, 2011

Utah U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch Launches S. J. Res 10, A Balanced Budget Amendment; All 47 Senate Republicans Support It

Utah's senior Republican Senator Orrin Hatch, incrementally rebuilding his conservative credentials, has submitted S.J. Res 10 for consideration. The joint resolution proposes an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to require a balanced budget. You can read the full text on Scribd.com at the moment; not yet available on other sources. All 47 Republican Senators support the bill. The Senate came within one vote of approving a similar amendment put forward by Hatch in 1997. Some sources believe as many as 13 Democrats might also support the bill, based on a nonbinding vote earlier in March 2011 in which 13 Democrats voted for the concept of a balanced-budget amendment. KSL news video below:


Video Courtesy of KSL.com

According to Senator Hatch, here are the key provisions:

* Mandates that total budgetary outlays for any fiscal year not exceed total revenues.
* Caps federal spending at 18 percent of GDP, seven percent lower than current levels.
* Requires the President to submit a balanced budget to Congress every fiscal year.
* Requires a two-thirds supermajority for any new tax, any increase in tax rates, or any bill that is a net revenue raiser. Requires a supermajority to raise the debt limit.
* Allows for waiver of limits if there is a formal declaration of war, if the U.S. is engaged in a military conflict constituting a threat to national security, or if two-thirds of both the House and Senate approve.

Senator Hatch notes that our national debt is over $14 trillion, the current annual deficit is $1.6 trillion, Federal spending has reached 25 percent of our nation’s economic output, and, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the nation’s debt could reach 90 percent of GDP in less than a decade, with the government spending almost $1 trillion on interest payments alone. If the Senate passes it, House passage would be more certain, given that chamber’s large GOP majority. Afterwards, 38 state legislatures would need to ratify it to make it the Constitution’s 28th Amendment.

Senator Hatch, along with Senator Mike Lee, may need to win more Utahns over to the idea. During the period Feb 8-10, Dan Jones conducted a poll of 496 Utahns, and the results showed that 51 percent were at least somewhat opposed to an amendment, while only 41 percent at least somewhat favored it. However, the poll question was extremely loaded, asking "Do you favor or oppose a National balanced budget amendment, realizing that doing so would require cuts to major programs like Social Security, Medicare, national defense, and homeland security?" The introduction of Social Security and Medicare into the question made it a push poll and may have scared some people away from voting Yes.

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