House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) said last night that he “never” expected a Balanced Budget Amendment to pass, even as a large minority of House Republicans are threatening to reject any debt ceiling increase unless the Constitution is rewritten to include one. Speaking with Fox News host Greta Van Susteren, Ryan said it’s not “realistic” to expect that Democratic House Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) would force the large number of members needed to change the Constitution to “vote against their conscious”:
RYAN: What I never really agreed with is the idea that we would expect Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi to deliver 40 [and] 15 votes from Democrats for our version of the Balanced Budget Amendment. You know, I just never thought that was realistic, to demand Democrats vote against their conscious for our version of the Balanced Budget Amendment. So I just never thought that would work.
Ryan’s political calculus is of course accurate, but it’s noteworthy coming from the GOP’s chief number cruncher and the staunchly conservative author of the Medicare-ending Republican budget. The current GOP version of the BBA is a disastrous idea that even leading conservatives have rejected. There’s no way it could achieve the two-thirds majority needed in both houses of Congress to pass, let alone before the Aug. 2 deadline to raise the debt limit. But as House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said yesterday, many members of own caucus are willing to let the deadline pass in the hope that the ensuing economic “chaos” would force Democrats to switch their votes.
The amendment is an integral part of the GOP’s “Cut, Cap, and Balance” plan. This was the only GOP debt ceiling solution until it was rejected by the Senate, forcing Boehner to roll out his own framework Monday that has divided the GOP. Recognizing the reality of the situation, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) took to the senate floor yesterday to excoriate his colleagues‘ intransigence for demanding nothing short of an Constitutional amendment.