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Posted at 11:30 AM ET, 03/ 3/2011

10 Senate Democrats back balanced budget measure

By Felicia Sonmez

An amendment offered by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) that would have "expressed the sense of the Senate" in support of a balanced budget amendment fell just short of passage Thursday, but it garnered the backing of almost a dozen members of the Senate Democratic caucus, many of whom are up for reelection in 2012.

Fifty-eight senators voted "yes" while 40 voted "no" on the measure, which Lee had proposed as an amendment to a patent-reform bill making its way through the Senate.

Among the 58 "yes" votes were 10 Democrats: Mark Begich (Alaska), Michael Bennet (Colo.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Tom Carper (Del.), Herb Kohl (Wis.), Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Claire McCaskill (Mo.), Bill Nelson (Fla.), Ben Nelson (Neb.) and Mark Udall (Colo.).

Of them, seven are up for reelection in 2012: Brown, Carper, Kohl, Manchin, McCaskill and both Nelsons. Connecticut Independent Sen. Joe Lieberman, who typically caucuses with Democrats and is retiring in 2012, also backed the measure. All Republicans voted in favor of the measure; two Democrats, Sens. Kent Conrad (N.D.) and Mary Landrieu (La.), did not vote.

The vote is a sign that Democrats, many of whom will face tough reelection battles in 2012, are sensitive to voters' concerns over federal spending.

Passage of a balanced budget amendment would be no easy task: It would require a two-thirds majority in both chambers and ratification by three-quarters of the states. In 1997, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) spearheaded a move for a balanced budget amendment, winning the backing of 66 senators -- including 11 Democrats -- but ultimately fell one vote short of the two-thirds necessary for passage.

Republicans in the House and Senate have renewed their push for a balanced budget amendment in recent months; both Lee and Hatch -- who is up for reelection in 2012 -- have introduced balanced budget proposals, and a House measure sponsored by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) has attracted more than 200 co-sponsors, including a half-dozen moderate Democrats.

-- Staff writer Paul Kane contributed to this report.

By Felicia Sonmez  | March 3, 2011; 11:30 AM ET
 
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Comments

This is still about the dumbest idea anyone in Congress ever came up with.
Example: who would have wanted to pay the extra Trillion dollars in taxes to fund the Afgan/Iraq wars?
There are things the government must do that do not include the luxury of saving up for it for a year or two... like hurricanes, and other disasters.
It is certainly a bad idea to borrow half the Federal budget, but going to the opposite extreme is possible and even worse idea.

Posted by: OldUncleTom | March 3, 2011 3:25 PM | Report abuse

Gee, did we not once have a balanced budget law--which was declared unconstitutional; of course this is all political theater--from 2000 to 2006 the republicans controlled the house, senate and presidency and no call for a balanced budget while all the time running up massive deficits--and hiding the true cost of georgie boy's great adventure.

Posted by: KENMAREINC | March 3, 2011 8:55 PM | Report abuse

"Passage of a balanced budget amendment would be no easy task: It would require a two-thirds majority in both chambers and ratification by three-quarters of the states."

Or simply requires ratification by 3/4 state legislatures. At this point, it's actually easier for the states to simply originate the document and ratify it without Congressional action. Interestingly, the Constitutional provision allowing such action by the states was debated back way-back-when and was inserted for instances like the current one (that is, when Congress is out-of-step with the States).

Posted by: rmgregory | March 4, 2011 9:28 AM | Report abuse

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