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Unity Difficult on Balanced Budget Amendment

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call
House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, seen here with Conference Vice Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, has expressed confidence that House Republicans can pass a balanced budget amendment.

House Republican leadership remained confident Tuesday that a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution would pass this week, but holdouts on both sides of the aisle still threaten to sink the amendment.

Fourteen Democrats have co-sponsored the resolution as of Tuesday, but Republicans are still a ways from securing the 48 Democratic supporters they need to pass the bill — and that is assuming all Republicans vote for it.

House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy said “we’re in good shape” when asked about his efforts to secure support from Members in his Conference and insisted that if the amendment fails, it will have been because of Democrats.

“The only way that you can get an amendment to the Constitution on a balanced budget is to work bipartisan. We’ve been working bipartisan with a number of them,” the California Republican said.

Democratic leadership, meanwhile, has been waging a campaign against the amendment, and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer told reporters Tuesday that his efforts to defeat it will be successful.

“I’m not going to go into specific number of votes, but I think it’s not likely that it will get the requisite number of votes,” the Maryland Democrat said.

The vote has exposed a rift among Members of the Democratic Caucus, some of whom believe that this is the best chance to pass a balanced budget amendment with no strings attached.

Rep. Peter DeFazio, who has been the most outspoken Democratic proponent of the measure, said he has been pitching this amendment to his colleagues for months and said he is frustrated that Hoyer has stepped into the fray recently when leadership was “shrugging their shoulders” when he brought it up to them long ago.

“Obviously I had hoped the Whip’s Office would stay out of it and let Democrats vote their conscience,” the Oregon lawmaker said. “The whole fight over the debt limit kind of poisoned the well a bit, and we’re trying to bring people back.”

Indeed, it’s a tough sell in the Caucus. Even Democrats who are receptive to the idea of a balanced budget amendment said they are not comfortable with the version Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) has sponsored, which will be voted on late in the week.

Rep. Jim Costa, a Blue Dog Democrat who is a co-sponsor of the legislation, was not optimistic Tuesday about the measure’s chances of passage.

“It’s going to get Democrats’ support. I don’t know that it’s going to get enough,” the California lawmaker said.

A senior aide to a member of the moderate New Democrat Coalition agreed.

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