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Senate Rejects Rival Balanced Budget Amendments


Despite numerous calls for fiscal restraint, the U.S. Senate voted Wednesday to reject two separate Constitutional amendments requiring a balanced federal budget.

The Senate voted 53 to 47 against a Republican-backed measure sponsored by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, with the vote coming down strictly along party lines.

A separate proposal by Democratic Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., was rejected by a vote of 79 to 21, with 31 Democrats and two independents joining with all but one Republican in voting against the amendment.

Last month, the Republican-controlled House voted 261 to 165 in favor of a balanced budget amendment but fell 23 votes short of the two-thirds majority required for passage.

The votes on the proposed balanced budget amendments were held as part of last summer's agreement to raise the government's debt limit.

Hatch, whose proposal was seen as more stringent, expressed disappointment with the outcome, saying that his proposal would have addressed the "real cause" of the nation's budget crisis.

"Congress will not kick this overspending addiction alone, but only if required to do so by the Constitution," Hatch said in remarks on the Senate floor before the vote.

Hatch's proposal would have required a two-thirds vote by Congress to raise taxes and would have capped federal spending at 18 percent of gross domestic product.

Meanwhile, the proposal sponsored by Udall required a three-fifths vote by Congress to waive the balanced budget rules and prohibited tax cuts for people making more than $1 million a year unless there was a budget surplus.

The Udall amendment also did not include a spending cap and protected the Social Security trust fund from being tapped to balance the budget.

Following the vote, Udall promised to continue fighting for fiscal responsibility in Washington, arguing that the federal government needs to be run like American families run their households.

"For too long, Congress has tried to be all things to all people - unable to resist the temptation to spend without limit, while also trying to keep taxes as low as possible," Udall said.

"We can't keep on that path without risking our future economic competitiveness and our national security," he added. "And we need to send a signal to the American people and to businesses that we're serious about stabilizing our budget for the long-term."

While Constitutional amendments do not require presidential approval, the White House issued policy statements expressing strong opposition to both amendments.

"We do not need to amend the Constitution for only the 28th time in our Nation's history to do the job of restoring fiscal discipline," the White House said in a statement.

The statement added, "Instead, we must - as members of both parties have done in the past - move beyond politics as usual and find bipartisan common ground to restore us to a sustainable fiscal path."

The White House and many Democrats argued that a balanced budget amendment risks accelerating economic downturns by requiring the government to raise taxes and cut spending in the face of a contraction.

by RTT Staff Writer

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