House Republicans say a constitutional mandate is the only way to impose discipline on the federal government's spending, and they moved ahead Monday on a plan to amend the constitution to require a balanced budget. They call it the Cut, Cap and Balance measure. This measure would require the constitutional provision include annual spending caps and a supermajority to approve tax increases.
The reform would come in two waves. Congress first would impose a legal cap on spending matching the budget written by Representative Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., and once Congress approves sending a constitutional amendment for ratification the debt ceiling would rise. The House plan most likely will not pass in the Senate and President Obama has already threatened to veto the bill. White House Spokesman Jay Carney says the Cut, Cap and Balance measure is designed to duck responsibility, dodge obligations and dismantle the U.S. social safety net.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., have been working on a deal to allow the debt ceiling to raise in return for nearly $1.5 trillion in spending cuts during the next decade. The current timeline includes the revealing of that plan later this week. With this timing, the Senate could pass its plan by July 29 and leave the House with just four days to approve the plan before the Aug. 2 deadline.
Senator Tom Coburn, R-Okla., has revealed his own plan that would save $9 trillion during the next 10 years through spending cuts, entitlement reform and increased tax revenue, encouraging colleagues to see that tax expenditures are not tax cuts.
Meanwhile, National Farmers Union is part of a coalition of organizations calling for a timely resolution to the debt ceiling negotiations that does not require disproportionate cuts in agriculture and related programs. NFU President Roger Johnson says ag has already taken a $6 billion reduction in its budget and is willing to do its share, but further cuts should be overseen by authorizing committees in the House and Senate. Johnson says the House and Senate Ag Committees have the expertise to best evaluate specific programs and include any changes in the 2012 Farm Bill in a manner that doesn't disrupt long-term commitments reflected in current farm legislation.
The coalition says the Farm Bill provides safeguards for farmers and ranchers to consistently provide a safe and stable food supply. They say these are important, especially since ag is among the sectors that will continue to lead the nation's economic recovery and ensure domestic and global food security. In a letter to President Obama and House and Senate leaders the coalition says a long-term, comprehensive solution reducing federal deficits must be found to help ensure the nation's fiscal integrity and economic strength.