A slurry of activity about a balanced budget amendment has come up in Montana, with a group of state Republican legislators sending letters to the state's U. S. lawmakers urging they vote for an amendment to the U. S. Constitution requiring a balanced federal budget.
In a press release about the letter, signed by 80 of the Republican state legislators and sent Monday, state Senate Majority Leader Jeff Essmann of Billings said Montana would be one of the first states to pass such an amendment if it is sent by Congress to the states.
“The clock is ticking for lawmakers in Washington, D.C., to do the right thing. Montana and 48 other states already balance their checkbooks. The federal government should be able to follow our lead, ” Essmann said. "Saddling future generations with an unsustainable debt is not an acceptable solution to our current economic woes. It is high time for Congress to step up and ensure a brighter future for our children and grandchildren by passing a balanced budget amendment. ”
The letter, addressed to Rep. Denny Rehberg, Montana’s Republican represenative, and Democratic Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester, was not signed by any Democrats and not by all Republicans in the state Legislature.
Havre’s three Republican lawmakers, Reps. Wendy Warburton and Kris Hansen and Sen. Rowlie Hutton, did sign the letter.
Hutton, who announced in February that he would resign after the session and has moved to Nebraska, filed his resignation July 13 with the Secretary of State’s office.
The U. S. House last week passed a bill that would have required a balanced budget amendment as part of raising the debt ceiling. The Senate tabled the bill, with Baucus and Tester both voting to kill the bill.
Rehberg, a co-sponsor of the House bill and Tester’s opponent in the 2012 Senate race, said it’s not surprising that the Montana lawmakers would support a balanced budget amendment.
“Montanans are sick of accounting gimmicks and budget tricks, ” Rehberg said in a press release Monday. “They want their representatives to make Washington look more like home, and that means fact-based budgeting and an end to the days of getting something for nothing. ”
Preston Elliot, Tester’s campaign manager, said Tester supports a balanced budget amendment, but that passing such an amendment would take years. Tester could not support other parts of the House debt ceiling deal, he said.
“Jon Tester is the only candidate working with Democrats and Republicans to solve this nation's fiscal problems, ” Elliot said in a statement to the Havre Daily News.
“Last week he signed onto the Gang of Six's responsible, bipartisan framework to cut debt and cut spending — while Dennis Rehberg voted to wipe out Medicare and protect tax loopholes for millionaires.
“For Jon, actually getting the work done is always more important than bringing partisan Washington theatrics to Montana, ” Elliot added.
The statement from Elliot listed some issues, such as Congress losing a $128 billion-dollar surplus and going back into deficit spending during Rehberg’s first year in the U. S. House; Rehberg voting to raise the U. S. debt ceiling, as part of the bill passed last week, for the ninth time; and Rehberg earning the rating “Number One Earmarker” of the Tea Party Caucus from the Citizens Against Government Waste before taking a pledge to not use earmarks, as reasons to doubt the validity of the issues being raised.
Baucus, who is supporting a draft bill for a balanced budget amendment bill, blasted the House version following Friday’s vote on the bill.
The version he is supporting, he said, protects Social Security and programs like Medicare, which he said the House bill would have gutted. The bill he supports protects them by exempting Social Security and allowing Congress to prioritize, including giving it “the flexibility to force billionaires, big oil companies and overseas tax cheats to pay their fair share instead of going after seniors, veterans, and college kids, ” Baucus’ release said.