The Republican party's ability to spontaneously organize around anything, just to show that they can, is a thing of beauty. President Obama wants a few hundred billion dollars in revenue increases to go along the $2 trillion in cuts that you want? Don't give in a cent, walk out, let the president excoriate you, and then get your entire 47-member Senate caucus to demand a comical balanced budget constitutional amendment as part of a debt-ceiling agreement, too.
The balanced budget amendment that Mitch McConnell called to the floor today would be the longest constitutional amendment ever, at 553 words. It eschews the direct, legally poetic language we might associate with an instrument as blunt as the Constitutional amendment — "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction," for example — for all the nitpicky tweaks of a bureaucratic sub-clause.
We've explained the many paradoxes that this amendment, if passed and ratified, would bring to Washington — it would render the Republican party's favorite thing ever, Rep. Paul Ryan's "Path to Prosperity" budget plan, unconstitutional, as one example. And we all know how adherence to the Consitution is a very serious, if not spiritual matter for the modern day Party of Lincoln.
I think "stupid" is the wrong word. "Dangerous" is more like it. And maybe "radical." This isn't just a Balanced Budget Amendment. It also includes a provision saying that tax increases would require a two-thirds majority in both houses of Congress - so, it includes a provision making it harder to balance the budget - and another saying that total spending couldn't exceed 18 percent of GDP. No allowances are made for recessions, though allowances are made for wars. Not a single year of the Bush administration would qualify as constitutional under this amendment. Nor would a single year of the Reagan administration. The Clinton administration would've had exactly two years in which it wasn't in violation.
But if Republicans want this as their major takeaway in exchange for raising the debt ceiling, maybe it wouldn't be a bad idea to let them have it. Democrats should say, sure, guys, we'll give you your two-thirds vote in the Senate on this! You've persuaded us to adopt fiscal responsibility, with this well reasoned and not at all silly Constitutional amendment! Let's do this, in honor of Thomas Jefferson and Ayn Rand and their many golden free-market bastard children in Heaven.
Then use the entire institutional heft of the Democratic party to ensure that the minimum 13 states don't ratify it, and it dies. This would give cover to everyone. Not that I would actually trust the Democratic party to carry this out competently, but it's a thought.
[Image via AP]