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.