Huntsman Supports Radical Balanced Budget Amendment

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In a private conference call with a handful of university students across the country, GOP Presidential hopeful — and President Obama’s former Ambassador to China — Jon Huntsman argued in support of one of the most far-reaching, controversial elements of the conservative political agenda.

As first reported in a broader piece by the Huffington Post, Huntsman argued in favor of a constitutional amendment requiring the federal government to maintain a balanced budget — an innocuous-sounding, but radical plan pushed by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) and numerous other congressional conservatives.

“We’re going to have to fight for a balanced budget amendment,” Huntsman said. “Every governor in this country has a balanced budget amendment. It keeps everybody honest. It’s the best safeguard imaginable.”At its core, a balanced-budget amendment would make it unconstitutional for the government to spend more than it collects in revenue — a requirement that, without safeguards, would make stimulus and emergency spending impossible.

Faced with a similar requirement, states responded to the recession with budget cuts that exacerbated the downturn.

But Republicans on the Hill have taken the idea a step further to the right by including a provision that would make it functionally impossible for the government to raise taxes. The goal, then, is to force future Congresses to slash or eliminate federal spending programs — which disproportionately benefit the needy and elderly — to bring them in line with a revenue base that’s likely to shrink over time.

It’s unclear whether Huntsman supports this version of a Balanced Budget Amendment, or a less extreme one. But the nature of the idea is such that it allows conservatives to signal their support for slashing programs without providing the unpopular details. And in the GOP primary, this will likely be a key test for candidates hoping to curry favor with influential conservatives like DeMint.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at brian@talkingpointsmemo.com
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