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Posted at 05:26 PM ET, 11/29/2011

Senate to vote on two versions of balanced budget amendment


Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the Senate will vote on two versions of a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. (J. Scott Applewhite - AP)
The Senate next month will vote on two versions of a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced Tuesday.

One version will be a measure sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who earlier this year led all 47 Republicans in backing a conservative version of a balanced budget amendment.

The other will be a measure introduced by Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) that includes aspects aimed at attracting Democratic support, such as one provision that would protect Social Security from balanced budget requirements and another that would prohibit Congress from enacting tax cuts for the wealthy at times when the budget is not in surplus.

The debate time for both measures “will be pretty brief,” Reid told reporters Tuesday.

The Senate votes will follow a House vote on a version of a balanced budget amendment that was approved by the chamber in 1995 but fell short of passage two weeks ago. Under the August debt-ceiling deal, both chambers are required to vote on a balanced budget amendment before the end of the year.

The last time the Senate voted on a balanced budget amendment, in 1997, the measures fell one short necessary of the two-thirds required for approval.

This time around, the votes on the two competing measures are likely to be more polarizing. The McConnell measure will likely attract the support of all Senate Republicans but few, if any, Democrats, as the legislation includes would require a supermajority in order to raise taxes — a provision most Democrats in both chambers strongly oppose.

Republicans, meanwhile, are likely to object to the Udall proposal as not strong enough and may also take issue with the provisions aimed at limiting tax cuts for the wealthy.

Reid also on Tuesday was asked whether he would call for a vote on any far-reaching debt-reduction legislation in the wake of the supercommittee’s failure.

His answer: Lawmakers must stop making “happy statements” about the need for a grand bargain on the debt and must instead put their recommendations into legislative language that can be scored by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office and brought to the floor.

“I’m stunned by the Gang of Six who we hear so much about,” Reid said, referring to the bipartisan group of six senators who have worked this year to craft a $4 trillion debt-reduction plan.

He noted that the three Republicans on the bipartisan panel — Sens. Tom Coburn (Okla.), Mike Crapo (Idaho) and Saxby Chambliss (Ga.) — were among the three-dozen Senate Republicans who penned a letter calling for no tax increases to be included in any supercommittee deal.

“So, I say put it in bill form and have it scored,” Reid said. “Bring it to me, and I’ll take a look at it. But other than that, it’s just happy talk.”

By  |  05:26 PM ET, 11/29/2011

 
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