Republicans want to mandate balanced U.S. budget

WASHINGTON, March 31 (Reuters) – All 47 U.S. Senate
Republicans, seeking fiscal discipline in big-spending
Washington, proposed on Thursday an amendment to the U.S.
Constitution that would require a balanced federal budget.

A number of such efforts have failed over the years. But
backers are hopeful this one may succeed amid an unprecedented
push to trim the federal deficit, projected to hit $1.4
trillion this year.

“It’s long past the time that we stop spending money we
don’t have,” said Senator Lamar Alexander, a member of
Republican leadership. “Requiring that we balance our national
budget is a logical step in that direction.”

To become law, proposed constitutional amendments must be
approved by two-thirds majority votes in the House of
Representatives and the Senate, and then ratified by
three-quarters of the 50 states.

“The whole thing is a long shot,” said Dan Ripp of Bradley
Woods, a private firm that tracks Washington for investors.

“The framers (of the Constitution) designed the amendment
process to be difficult on purpose,” Ripp said.

Under the Republican proposal, the requirement for a
balanced budget would go into effect five years after
ratification.

It would permit limited exemptions, such as during a time
of war. The proposed amendment would also require a two-thirds
vote in the House and Senate to raise taxes.

Since the Constitution was ratified in 1789 as the supreme
law of the land, just 27 amendments have been approved, the
last in 1992.

A balanced budget amendment passed the Republican-led House
in 1995, but fell short in the Republican-led Senate.

Democrats now control the Senate, 53-47. So far, none of
them have embraced the Republican balanced-budget proposal.
(Reporting by Thomas Ferraro, editing by Eric Beech)

Republicans want to mandate balanced U.S. budget