Washington Secrets

It's back: Utah's Lee pushes balanced budget amendment

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Politics,Paul Bedard,Washington Secrets

Fed up with past gimmicks that haven't slowed the growth of the nation's debt, Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee is renewing an idea the public loves but Washington hates: A Constitutional amendment to balance the budget.

"All past efforts of Congress to limit spending have utterly failed. None of the existing restraints - the Budget Act, spending caps, the debt limit, the sequester - have gotten spending under control, and we have $16.4 trillion of debt to prove it," said Lee. "Only a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution will permanently bind Congress and force both parties to live within the nation's means. Anything less will simply maintain our dysfunctional and unsustainable status quo."

Lee has the ability to rally factions of the Tea Party and GOP behind his idea and he counts 23 Democrats on his side.

His plan is simple: Uncle Sam can't spend more than he takes in. And federal spending will be limited to 18 percent of gross national product, the 40-year historical average.

Lee has tried before, but GOP officials believe that the continued budget crisis might help give the amendment enough support to eek through the Senate and then to go the states for final approval.

"We have an obligation to correct course and put the country on a responsible path to fiscal sustainability," Lee said in a statement. "Families, businesses, and state and local governments are all expected to live within their means. The federal government should do the same

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