POLITICS
07/08/2011 02:29 pm ET Updated Sep 07, 2011

White House Dismisses GOP Calls For Balanced Budget Amendment

WASHINGTON -- The White House on Friday resoundingly rejected a push by Republicans to amend the Constitution with a balanced budget amendment as part of ongoing deficit talks.

"This is not a constitutional issue," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said during his daily briefing, in response to a question about whether President Barack Obama has ruled out the idea in his negotiations with congressional leaders on a potentially $4 trillion deficit reduction deal.

"The fact is that the balanced budget amendment would be, is basically an admission by Congress that they can't do anything, right?" Carney said. "And that's not true, as [evidenced by] these discussions that we're engaged in right now. And it should not be true. And it's a shame if people actually believe that. So no, we don't support it."

The bottom line is that Congress needs to come up with a solution to budget deficits and long-term debt, he said, not punt the issue to the Constitution.

Such an amendment "is not good for the economy; it doesn't answer the problem, and we need to act because we are capable to doing the work that the American people sent us here to do," Carney said.

Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), defended the need for a constitutional amendment and maintained that it wouldn't be in place of making spending cuts, but in addition to them.

"Unlike Democrats, we've shown we have no trouble identifying cuts for today," Buck told The Huffington Post. "But along with those immediate steps, long-term reforms - such as a BBA - are important to ensure we never end up in this position again."

House and Senate Republicans have stepped up their efforts in recent weeks to tie a balanced budget amendment to a vote to increase the debt limit.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) announced Friday that the House will vote on a balanced budget amendment during the week of the July 18. Lawmakers were originally scheduled to have that week off, but GOP leaders canceled the recess as the August 2 deadline approaches for a bipartisan deal on raising the debt limit.

Across the Capitol, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has been leaning on the procedural process to force a balanced budget amendment onto the Senate's legislative calendar. That vote is also lining up for the week of the July 18, according to a top Senate GOP aide.

Conservatives have been using the issue as a rallying point. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) on Thursday teamed up with nearly two dozen Republicans to unveil legislation that would, among other things, require passage of a balanced budget amendment before Congress can raise the debt ceiling.

"There is nothing more important than addressing the nation's debt crisis," Lee said in a statement. "To fix it, we need to cut spending now, limit future spending and pass a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution that forces subsequent Congresses to spend no more than the federal government takes in."

The reality is that such an amendment has little chance of passing, however. Democrats remain firmly opposed to the idea, and amending the Constitution requires a two-thirds majority in both chambers of Congress as well as ratification by three-fourths of the states.

The Hill also reported that McConnell won't demand passage of the amendment in exchange for raising the debt limit and that he is largely bringing the issue to a vote in response to pressure from party conservatives.