Conservative anti-tax group Club For Growth is warning Republican lawmakers that when it comes to debt talks, it’s balanced budget or bust.
The White House is reportedly discussing a broad deal with the House GOP that could reduce the deficit by $4 trillion over the next decade with as much as $1 trillion coming from new revenues. But a spokesman for the group, Barney Keller, told TPM that they were married to Sen. Jim DeMint’s (R-SC) “Cut, Cap, and Balance” proposal, which demands that Republicans make the successful passage of a Balanced Budget Amendment a precondition for any deal.
The group is one of the most aggressive conservative organizations when it comes to backing primary challengers against Republicans. Keller said he wouldn’t speculate whether Republicans who backed a deal along the lines of the latest reports would face a conservative opponent, but he made it clear that Cut, Cap, and Balance was the measure against which they would be judged in the group’s scorecard for members.
“We’ll be watching closely to see which members of Congress are committed to restoring America’s economic future and we’ve already announced that we’re scoring the signing of the Cut, Cap and Balance pledge,” he said. “I expect we’ll probably be scoring Cut, Cap, and Balance votes for our scorecard as well.”
The House Republican budget comes nowhere near balancing the budget for decades and that’s the starting point for negotiations. Few policy wonks take the routine calls for such an amendment by Republican politicians seriously and many observers have floated the idea that Democrats might include a symbolic vote on the proposal in any deal in order to satisfy conservatives. But Keller warned that his organization would not give Republican members a pass if they voted for a deficit reduction deal and backed an unsuccessful amendment in a separate vote.
“We don’t support raising the debt ceiling without spending cuts, statutory spending caps, and passage of a Balanced Budget Amendment,” he said. “Just because a Republican votes yes, if it doesnt pass it doesn’t give them authorization to increase the debt ceiling.”
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.