Republican freshmen took a veiled jab at House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer and other Democrats who supported a balanced budget amendment in 1995 but are opposing it now, claiming that the reversal shows they're playing politics with America's future.
"They voted for the balanced budget amendment in 1995. And now they're actively lobbying for a no vote. Why? One word: politics," said Rep. Tim Griffin, a GOP freshman from Arkansas, at a press conference Thursday morning. "Many of them that are lobbying against it now, and are going to vote against it now, actually support it, in their hearts, and they showed it in 1995."
A vote on a balanced budget amendment was guaranteed by the debt ceiling agreement passed this summer. Debate on the measure—which would force Congress to balance its budget unless two thirds of Congress declares a spending emergency—begins in the House on Thursday, with a vote following on Friday. Hoyer, who along with Assistant House Democratic Leader James Clyburn voted in favor of the balanced budget when it narrowly failed in 1995, told reporters on Tuesday in 1995 he didn't anticipate the "irresponsibility" of the Bush administration and Republicans in Congress.
"It's not a tough vote to pretend that you are going to go for a balanced budget amendment by having some amendment on the floor. What is tough is paying for things," Hoyer said, and then went on to blast the Bush administration for failing to pay for the Iraq war, for tax cuts, and for the prescription drug benefit program.
But GOP freshmen took a less charitable view of why Hoyer and other Democrats have changed their tune on the balanced budget amendment.
"That's the kind of hypocrisy and the kind of behavior that needs to be exposed," said Michigan Rep. Bill Huizenga, another Republican freshman. "When it's time for them to put their money where their mouth is, literally, they're not willing to do that, because their focus is not on the future, their focus is on the next election."
The freshmen also pushed back against claims from the right that the amendment doesn't go far enough to restrict future tax increases. Many conservative lawmakers and activists were pushing for an amendment which would restrict federal spending to 18 percent of America's gross domestic product, and would also require two thirds of Congress to approve any future tax hikes. The lawmakers claimed that the amendment, if enacted by Congress and the states, would ensure that the federal government stays within its means, but it would ultimately be up to voters to decide whether to do so with higher taxes of slashed spending.
"This sets the terms of the debate moving forward," said Rep. Alan Nunnelee, a Republican freshman from Mississippi.
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