Terry Jeffrey
If anything good came out of the deal House Speaker John Boehner cut with President Barack Obama to increase the limit on the federal debt by as much as $2.4 trillion, it was that the legislation enacting that increase also provided that by the end of this year both houses of Congress must vote on a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.

However, Boehner may now turn that good thing bad.

At Boehner's press briefing last week, CNSNews.com's Matt Cover noted that there were two basic versions of a balanced budget amendment -- one that capped federal spending as a percentage of gross domestic product and required supermajorities in both houses of Congress to enact a tax increase and one that didn't cap spending or require supermajorities for tax increases.

Cover asked: Had the Republican House leadership ruled out supporting the second kind?

"There are at least half a dozen different versions of a balanced budget amendment to our Constitution," Boehner responded.

"Many of us believe that a balanced budget amendment is the ultimate enforcement mechanism to control spending here in Washington," he said. "As we approach this vote, the (majority) leader and I are going to listen to our members about which version they would want us to vote on, and we've got no decision yet, but we're going to work with our members to make that decision."

Bottom line: Boehner may lead the Republican House in voting on a balanced budget amendment that permits unlimited federal spending and allows simple majorities to increase taxes to whatever level they want.

Ed Meese, who served as attorney general for President Ronald Reagan, does not think this is a good idea. CNSNews.com's Cover interviewed Meese about the issue last Friday.

"A weak balanced budget amendment -- without certain safeguards and protections against excessive taxation and excessive spending -- would be worse than the situation we have at the present time," Meese said.

"It would be used by those who seek to have an expanded government and increased taxes to make it mandatory to increase taxes," said Meese. "It would make it much easier to raise taxes, and that's why the important thing is to have a protection, for example, that it would take two-thirds of both houses in order to increase taxes ... and, likewise, that there be some sort of a cap on expenditures, perhaps in relation to gross domestic product."

Meese said he also would like to see language that prevents courts from using the amendment to usurp the constitutional authority of the elected branches -- the legislature and the executive -- to make the nation's taxing-and-spending laws.

Make no mistake: Meese is for a balanced budget amendment.

Terry Jeffrey

Terence P. Jeffrey is the editor-in-chief of CNSNews

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