Republican Sens. Mike Lee and Rand Paul, both with strong ties to tea partiers, said that they favor the version of a Balanced Budget Amendment that has a supermajority requirement for increasing taxes, but they wouldn’t completely rule out supporting one, either.
The House of Representatives is expected to hold votes on two versions of a BBA on Friday, one with the requirement and one without it.
“I’m concerned about a Balanced Budget (Amendment) that doesn’t have a supermajority to raise taxes in it,” Paul said on a conference call. “We do need to balance the budget, but I want to balance a smaller budget. I want government to be more constitutional, which would mean we would do many less functions in Washington and leave those to the states and to the people.”
When pressed on whether he would rule out supporting such a version, Paul said, “until we get to the point of having a real discussion and a debate in Congress, I’m not sure I want to go beyond that as far as outlining as far as the ultimate compromise might wind up.” He added that, “I would say that I am open to working with others on the other side to get to a point where we can pass it.”
Many conservatives are skeptical about a BBA without such a requirement, because they fear it may not lead to smaller government, since you could theoretical have a balanced budget with higher taxes and more government spending.
Sen. Mike Lee said that even a BBA without a requirement could be better than nothing.
“I think a Balanced Budget Amendment is going to be best if it has a restriction related not just to revenues and outlays, but also a fixed percentage of GDP and a restriction on raising taxes,” Lee said. “I think as long as it’s written in such a way that it’s binding, we probably would be better off with a Balanced Budget Amendment even if it didn’t have that, than we are without an Amendment at all.”
He went on to explain: “That is the subject of a lot of disagreement within and among Republicans. Not everybody agrees with me on that, but my point there is simply, if you did have a Balanced Budget Amendment, and if it were binding, if it’s not something that’s riddled with loopholes that could be circumvented, then even if some in Congress use that as an excuse to raise taxes in order to justify additional government spending, at least then there would be more direct accountability for expanding government.”
However, that said, Lee didn’t think such a version would clear Congress.
“It is unlikely at this point that a Balanced Budget Amendment could move through Congress and maintain the Republican support it would need, because a number of Republicans would be likely to drop their support if it did not contain that (tax requirement).”