Senate Republicans launch Balanced Budget Amendment effort

Senate Republicans are launching a major new push to encourage the adoption of a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution, an effort with little chance of success but one that will allow the GOP a new way to frame their criticisms of Democratic spending.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn (R-Tex.) introduced the legislation Wednesday. They were joined by all other Senate Republicans as co-sponsors.

Sen. Mitch McConnell, (R-Ky.), speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., Feb. 12, 2013. (Manuel Balce Ceneta -- Associated Press) Sen. Mitch McConnell, (R-Ky.), speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., Feb. 12, 2013. (Manuel Balce Ceneta -- Associated Press)

Their amendment would require that the president submit a balanced budget to Congress that would include spending that totaled no more than 18 percent of the gross domestic product and require that Congress adopt a budget with spending capped at the same figure. Government spending for the 2013 fiscal year has risen to 22.2 percent. The Republican amendment would also require a two-third super majority to raise taxes or the nation's legal debt ceiling.

Amending the Constitution is difficult -- it would require a two-third vote of both chambers of Congress, followed by adoption by the states. But McConnell has called on Republicans to refocus their debate over government growth around the need for such an amendment, which many Republicans believe is broadly popular and would be the only way to force government spending cuts.

"The American people have paid enough of a price over the last few years for Washington’s recklessness, and passing a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution would put our citizens back at the helm of our ship of state," McConnell said in a statement. "The American people understand that Washington needs to balance its books by reducing spending, and it is past time that Congress pass this amendment and send it to the states for ratification."

Rosalind Helderman is a political enterprise and investigations reporter for the Washington Post.

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