Newt Stays Sane on the Balanced Budget Amendment

July 15th, 2011 at 4:28 pm | 16 Comments |

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As the debt ceiling talks drag on, many Republicans are suggesting a new condition for raising the amount that the federal government can borrow: the passage of a balanced budget amendment.  Twelve senators and thirty-six members of Congress have signed a pledge to tie any debt limit increase to the enactment of  such an amendment, and the House now plans to vote on one next week. However, this idea recently came under fire from an unlikely source – former House speaker and GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich. While his campaign may be struggling, Gingrich is still eager to weigh in on the debt debate and was willing to question the wisdom of making a balanced budget amendment part of the negotiations.

FrumForum participated in a recent conference on Friday afternoon in which Gingrich was asked whether he supports the idea of making the passage of a budget amendment a condition for a debt limit hike. “To make it the only litmus test of whether to vote for the debt ceiling, I think, is dangerous,” he said. “Frankly, it ultimately forces the leadership to go to Democrats for votes, which is a bad thing to do.” Gingrich noted that Republicans are unlikely to muster the two-thirds majority in each house needed to approve a constitutional amendment, pointing out that “even when we had the full support of the American people in 1995 [referring to an effort to pass an amendment when he was speaker], we still fell one vote short in the Senate.”

The former speaker did make clear that he supports a balanced budget amendment and thinks scheduling a vote on it is a good idea, but he wants such a vote mainly in order to embarrass Democrats before the 2012 elections. “They should demand a vote on it in the Senate to put people on the record,” he said. “We need to pick up 12 Democratic seats in the Senate next year, and getting record votes like this is very helpful.”

Despite Gingrich’s reputation for extreme rhetoric, these comments actually form part of a pattern in which he has repeatedly criticized some of the GOP’s more dogmatic positions. The most famous instance of this came when he blasted Paul Ryan’s Medicare proposals, which have since been shown to be extremely unpopular, as “right-wing social engineering.” Gingrich of course got attacked by conservatives for this observation.

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16 Comments so far ↓

  • medinnus

    Why is a title like “GOP politician remains sane… ” about anything considered news? Really, really sad.

  • Watusie

    “The former speaker did make clear that he supports a balanced budget amendment ”

    Well, then, he isn’t actually sane, is he? The BBA is lunacy of the highest sort.

    If this is so very, very important, why doesn’t Boehner simply institute PAYGO rules in the House?

  • LFC

    I read this post twice to find the “sane” part. Nope, can’t find it.

  • Frumplestiltskin

    Moron, why would Reid even put it up for a vote.

  • Graychin

    It IS news when a GOP politician “stays sane.” It’s a very rare occurrence anymore.

    But the previous commenters are right. Where is the “sane” part?

    In any case, what does it matter what Newt Gingrich thinks? Isn’t he the disgraced former Speaker who is plodding ahead with the most comically inept presidential campaign in US history?

  • Frumplestiltskin

    “We need to pick up 12 Democratic seats in the Senate next year, and getting record votes like this is very helpful.”

    And he can’t even count. There are 47 Republicans in the Senate. What could would 59 do? Not even enough to break a filibuster. And Republicans need 67 votes for the Amendment, so they would need to win 20 votes.

  • Scritor

    Looks like Newt’s statement is making it more and more likely that one of the candidates (Pawlenty? Cain? Bachmann?) will counter with this:

    “We should never agree to any deal but my line in the sand is a balanced budget amendment. Anyone can propose an amendment in Congress, though. Once 2/3 of both the House and the Senate approve the measure, which is a given, and 3/4 of the states ratify it–that’s 38 states if you’re counting–then I will give my imprimatur on all this talk of raising the debt ceiling. Which is unnecessary and totally being blown out of proportion.”

  • Jeffk

    Instead of voting for an amendment to make Congress balance the budget, why hasn’t any of the recent Republican Congress ever, umm, balanced the budget?

  • Bunker555

    TPaw 20 second flip flop:

    LEISMAN: So you favor default by the United States? Is that what you’re saying? Under any circumstances you would not raise the debt ceiling without sufficient spending cuts?

    PAWLENTY: They’ve already gone through the debt ceiling, they went through it in May, so I’m saying I wish they wouldn’t raise it, but if they’re going to raise it, at least get some structural reform and improvement so we’re on a better trajectory going forward.

    LEISMAN: But Governor, hold on the other side here. Are you saying you are willing to accept default and/or breaching the debt ceiling in the absence of sufficient spending cuts?

    PAWLENTY: No, I think they’re going to have to raise the debt ceiling, but what I’m saying is if they do that, as they do that, they should get some structural reform.

    http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2011/07/15/270889/pawlenty-debt-ceiling-flip-flop/

  • Raskolnik

    Bunker, all I saw from that quote is that T-Paw wishes they wouldn’t raise the debt ceiling, but acknowledges that they have to, and wants to get significant spending concessions in return. Where exactly is the flip-flop?

    I’m not a fan of Pawlenty by any stretch and have no intention of voting for him even in a primary, but I think it’s important not to devalue actual flip-flops. And as for the debt ceiling, the bottom line is that raising it is a means to an end, and the end is reducing our debt over the long term. So some kind of reform on non-discretionary spending is absolutely necessary, as is some kind of reform on the revenue side of the equation.

    • Bunker555

      Raskolnik,

      Since you raised the bar on flip flops, let me give you some examples of wishy washy borderline flip flops.

      Since last year, Pawlenty has transformed himself into an orthodox Republican, quickly shedding the forward-thinking, “Sam’s Club” conservatism he once personified as governor. Pawlenty has even come under fire for dropping his Minnesota accent in favor of an invented Southern drawl while speaking to audiences in Arkansas. As he gears up for a 2012, Pawlenty has shown a willingness to do a complete 180 on a number of key policy areas:

      1. FROM CAP-AND-TRADE CHAMPION TO CLIMATE DENIER: As chairman of the National Governor’s Association in 2007, Pawlenty called for the nation to move “boldly and aggressively” to develop and promote clean energy initiatives. The next year, in a joint radio address with then-Arizona governor Janet Napolitano, Pawlenty urged Congress to pass a cap-and-trade law. Yet last month Pawlenty told Meet the Press that “cap and trade, I think, would be a disaster” and denied that human activity was causing global climate change.

      2. “NAKED CYNICISM” ON A GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN: In 2005, Pawlenty told the Associated Press that a government shutdown in Minnesota would be painful and regrettable. “Anyone who considers the negative impacts of a shutdown should see it as a reason to seriously get back to the negotiating table,” Pawlenty said. When the state government did shut down, Pawlenty blamed it on the “naked cynicism” of his political opponents. But earlier this year Pawlenty said the 2005 shutdown should have lasted longer, and supported a federal shutdown, declaring at a gathering of Tea Party activists that “a dramatic month” was “what we need.”

      3. REJECTED HEALTH CARE LAW EVEN WHILE ACCEPTING HEALTH CARE FUNDS: Despite signing an executive order that blocked implementation of the federal health care law in Minnesota, Pawlenty allowed state agencies to accept $10 million in grants allocated by the law. Pawlenty even applied for abstinence-only education funds provided for by the law.

      4. HYPOCRISY ON “RECKLESS SPENDING”: Despite calling a $26.1 billion federal aid package for the states “reckless spending” and a “bailout” that Minnesota did not need, Pawlenty asked for $263 million from the package to bolster his state’s Medicaid program.

      5. RAISED TAXES THEN CRUSADED AGAINST TAXES: Earlier this month, Pawlenty told ThinkProgress that “the corporate tax rate in Minnesota and around the country is too high.” Yet in 2008, Pawlenty supported a $109 million corporate tax increase. And during his eight years as governor, Pawlenty instituted a number of new fees and taxes that shifted the tax burden on to Main Street.

  • Houndentenor

    This is one of the most idiotic ideas floating around today. Congress has shown they aren’t willing to compromise to get anywhere near a balanced budget. All a Constitutional Amendment would do is throw that budget cutting or tax increasing off to the “unelected judges” that right-wingers are always moaning about.

  • Jim_M

    God I wish it were 2012 NOW. We will NEVER have relief from this economy as long as LIBERALS continue to hold the WH and senate. We…are…S-C-R-E-W-E-D.

    Obama can NOT handled the heat girls. WAY above is skill set.

    Simple solution?

    STOP SPENDING NOW!!!!STOP SPENDING NOW!!!!STOP SPENDING NOW!!!!

    Have at it ladies.

    • pnumi2

      STOP SPENDING NOW

      On Social Security and Medicare?

      1) sounds like death panels to me

      2) watch our GDP shrink from double digit trillions back to single digits. That would be helpful.

  • medinnus

    Its really quite simple.

    Cut Defense spending and end the pointless wars in Libya, Afghanistan, and Iraq.

    Eliminate the tax-exempt status of any church which engages in political activity.

    Let the Bush tax cuts expire.

    Tax JimBob at 110%; he brags he’s so wealthy, he can afford it. Then, when he’s bottomed out, lets see how he feels about social services for the poor.

    Republicans whine and Republicans bitch.
    “The Rich are too poor!”
    “The Poor are too rich!”

  • Anonne

    Can’t find the sanity in this. He only opposes it for purely political reasons. Opposing it in principle, because it would limit the government’s powers to react in downturns, would be sane.

    If we had a balanced budget amendment in place at the time of the Great Depression, we would never have been able to enter WWII (which, with its insane deficit spending, was the economic engine that broke the economy out of the lingering effects of the Depression – the real proof of Keynes’ theory).