ABC News’ Z. Byron Wolf reports: Republicans who last week defeated a Democratic “pay-go” proposal and a bipartisan commission to reduce the national debt, today released their own proposals to bring government spending in line. Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz, Jim DeMint, R-SC today introduced legislation for a year-long moratorium on earmarks. They were joined by Sens. Lindsey Graham and George LeMieux, who want to pass a constitutional amendment requiring that Congress balance the national budget each year. Republicans last week united against a proposal by Democrats to require that all new spending be offset elsewhere in the budget. They complained the rule was a hollow promise, easily bypassed with a simple vote. The Balanced budget amendment would include exemptions for security spending. The pay-go amendment was different but in the same spirit as the balanced budget amendment offered by the Republicans today. A balanced budget amendment came within one vote of the 60 it would have needed in 1995, shortly after Republicans took control of Congress under then-President Bill Clinton. “If the law made us balance the budget before we left town. you know what would happen? we’d make some hard decisions,” said Graham. Graham voted last week in favor of a bipartisan debt reduction commission whose recommendations would be immune from a Senate filibuster. But McCain was one of 7 Republican cosponsors of the measure who voted against their own bill. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was not a cosponsor, but had asked specifically asked the White House to consider the proposal in 2009 before voting against it in 2010. Anti-tax activists on the right and liberal groups on the left had lobbied against the proposal. A last-minute endorsement by President Obama could did not turn the tide. The issue of bipartisanship is often at hand in Washington these days as Democrats grapple with their slightly diminished (and thus no longer filibuster-proof) majority. Graham said both parties are responsible for the bleak economic situation. “You can’t be this far in debt without both parties working together,” he said snappily. But DeMint said he’ll only consider bipartisan bills that adhere to “free market principles.” And such a creature, he implied, might not exist. “The problem I have is this is my 12th year in the Congress and I cannot recall any bipartisan bill that did not increase spending, expand government and increase our debt,” said DeMint. Senate rules require that earmarks be made public and President Obama has asked Congress to make the more accessible. But the two Republican Senators want them to be done away with entirely. There are$11 billion expected in disclosed earmarks for 2010 – fewer than years past and not nearly enough to make a dent in the more than $1 trillion budget deficit.
“Folks, on one hand we can’t say our country is in dire straits and on the other hand say, “I need a million dollars for my local museum.” And if we have 535 congressmen and senators who still want their earmarks and are not willing to take even a one-year time- out, then we have a huge problem addressing our debt,” said DeMint, who described himself as a “reformed earmarker.”
McCain also zeroed in on some non-earmark spending he said was wasteful – The US Census Superbowl ad.
“How many homes could have been prevented from being foreclosed in Phoenix, Arizona, with this $2-1/2 million?” McCain asked.
McCain made a larger point that Republicans abandoned their small-government principles in recent years, including with his own Presidential campaign.
Now, in a little straight talk, Republicans lost the elections in 2002 — in 2008 for a variety of reasons. One of them may have been the quality of their presidential nominee. I will allow others to make that judgment,” he said, laughing.
“But the point is — but the point is that we betrayed the fiscal conservatives in this country when we let spending get completely out of control. And that’s a fact. And we’re only going to regain the confidence of the American people when we get spending under control,” he said.