For decades, support for a constitutional amendment to require a balanced federal budget has been a basic tenet of the Republican Party. Just last year, the party’s platform explicitly called for such an amendment, claiming that “[o]nly a constitutional safeguard such as this can prevent deficits from
mounting to government default.” So when Congressional Republicans confirmed on Friday that their tax legislation proposal would in fact increase the national debt by an estimated $1.5 trillion over the next decade, even Fox News noticed the hypocrisy.
“What happened to Paul Ryan, the deficit hawk?” asked Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace.
“Paul Ryan, the deficit hawk, is also a growth advocate,” the Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) responded, before suggesting that the $1.5 trillion hole in the deficit might not actually happen because economic growth could mean more revenue.
Ryan generally supports the idea of a constitutional amendment to require balanced budgets but voted against his party’s 2011 version of the Balanced Budget Amendment, warning it might require higher tax rates. But the House speaker is far from the only hypocrite on this subject. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said after voting for the amendment in 2011: “It is simple: the federal government shouldn’t be spending money we don’t have, and saddling our children with crippling debt.” House Ways and Means Chair Kevin Brady (R-TX), author of the tax “reform” legislation said at the time, “Why do families and businesses have to live within their means, but not Washington? The Balanced Budget Amendment places common-sense discipline on future presidents and Congress to control wasteful spending and will keep us financially sound. Make no mistake; my goal is not to simply balance the budget, but to pay off America’s national debt — every dime.”
Indeed, a ThinkProgress review of previous roll call votes, legislative sponsors and co-sponsors, and campaign statements found that all 52 Senate Republicans and 218 of the 239 House Republicans currently serving have previously endorsed a balanced budget amendment. They include virtually every member of the House and Senate GOP leadership.
Read the full list here.
In addition to Brady and Ryan, the tax legislation is co-sponsored by at least 22 Republican representatives who have also backed the Balanced Budget Amendment in the past.
Though there have been multiple different specific Balance Budget Amendments proposed over the past several decades in Congress, each has included requirements that spending not exceed revenue in a given year, except in a time of war or with a Congressional super-majority.
The current national debt exceeds $20 trillion.