Feb. 10, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Senate GOP Unifies Over Balanced Budget Message

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who chairs the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights, is planning a hearing on the amendment in response to a request this month from Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas). The hearing is timed to occur at roughly the same time that McConnell wants a floor vote. Although Democrats say they will keep an open mind, they insist that the Majority Leader sets the schedule and that the GOP push is futile, given that such a measure is unlikely to pass the Democratic-controlled chamber.

The push to move the balanced budget amendment to the floor has a distinct tea party flavor, although establishment Republicans are also championing the measure.

For instance, Paul campaigned on the issue and will be one of the Senators to address the media Wednesday. His staff said he has spoken so much on the issue that he won’t take prepared remarks for the news conference. His staffers are working on multiple opinion pieces to run across the state over the July Fourth break, and Paul, who has widened his local media TV outreach, will address the topic in upcoming interviews.

Coalescing around an issue is an opportunity that Senate freshmen have been restless about.

“I know it’s been frustrating for some of the new Senators who came in on this tide, to sit around and have three or four votes on nominations each week instead of taking on serious issues,” Paul spokeswoman Moira Bagley said. “The fact that you can get the entire Republican caucus to agree on this is a pretty big move in itself.”

But the question still remains whether others, from outside groups to a handful of vulnerable Democrats, will regard the GOP effort as attractive or even reasonable.

In March, 10 Democrats backed a “sense of the Senate” amendment offered by Lee in support of a balanced budget amendment: Mark Begich (Alaska), Michael Bennet (Colo.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Tom Carper (Del.), Herb Kohl (Wis.), Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Claire McCaskill (Mo.), Bill Nelson (Fla.), Ben Nelson (Neb.) and Mark Udall (Colo.). Six of those Members are up for re-election, and Kohl is retiring.

“America faces a choice — do we go broke or do we enact a balanced budget amendment to slash our over $14 trillion debt? That’s why we are forcing this debate that Washington Democrats don’t want to have, because we have to start living within our means,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who will lead the floor colloquy Wednesday.

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