By Nicole Gaudiano
November 16, 2011
Democratic Rep. John Carney of Delaware says he will vote against a Republican proposal that would amend the Constitution to require a balanced budget every year. Carney has introduced his own proposed balanced budget amendment.
Under an Aug. 2 law raising the nation's debt ceiling, Congress must vote on a balanced budget amendment before 2013. Such an amendment would require a two-thirds majority vote in the House and Senate, and ratification by at least 38 states.
The Republican proposal, which House lawmakers will vote on this week, would require that spending not exceed revenue in any fiscal year unless three-fifths of each chamber of Congress votes for an override.
The proposal, authored by GOP Rep. Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, also would require a three-fifths vote in each chamber to increase the nation's borrowing limit.
The Obama administration opposes Goodlatte's resolution, saying, "We do not need to amend the Constitution for the 28th time in our nation's history to do the job of restoring fiscal discipline."
Carney said his proposal is different from Goodlatte's in that it would allow for long-term public investments in things such as airplanes and infrastructure expenditures to be financed over time. It would separate the federal capital and operating budgets and require that only the operating budget be balanced.
Carney's proposal would not require the Social Security trust fund to be balanced every year. It also would allow spending to exceed revenue during recessions, wars or imminent national security threats.
Goodlatte's resolution would not require a balanced budget during wars or imminent security threats, but the requirement would hold during recessions.
"The approach that I'm suggesting is a more workable one, it's a more reasonable one and it's not just a political one," Carney said during an interview. "I think the balanced budget amendment to most people sounds great. But spending for military equipment and assets, spending for federal facilities and infrastructure, requires a more sophisticated approach."
Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., whose proposal for a balanced budget amendment came close to passing the House in the 1990s, said a combination of the Goodlatte and Carney proposals would be a "very good constitutional amendment." He said he would urge them to team up on a proposal.
Carney said he isn't sure Goodlatte has the 290 votes he needs.
"If he doesn't have them, then he may come to me to talk about ways to get other votes and maybe some of my ideas could help," he said.