Incoming Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah plans to lead the charge for a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution, with the goal of implementing one within a year.
“We will have to look at spending cuts in almost every department and program,” he tells Newsmax.TV. “Perhaps the most straightforward way would be to look at the last year when expenditures roughly matched revenues.”
That could push the country back to 2004, he says. “If that’s what we have to do to balance the budget, I think we have to do that.”
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Lee, who was elected with the backing of the tea party movement, is joining forces with a new advocacy group, Balanced Budget Amendment Now
, to get the amendment passed. Taxpayer advocate Ken Blackwell, former mayor of Cincinnati, heads the organization.
As for the threat of a government shutdown to enforce spending discipline, “We never take any option off the table,” Lee says. “No one relishes the possibility of a government shutdown. At the same time, they (the White House) can’t use the threat of a government shutdown to bully members of Congress to vote for a massive increase in our debt.”
A continuing spending resolution may be the best solution, Lee says. “But you have to take into account that a continuing resolution means an annual budget deficit approaching $1.5 trillion. We can’t afford to keep doing that.”
Lee supports a ban on earmarks. “We need a complete moratorium for at least a year or two while we get a process ironed out for full transparency such that each earmark request stands or falls on its own merit,” he says.
“Congress needs to go off the bottle to put a reform like that in place.”
Lee also backs making the Bush-era tax cuts permanent. “But a glass half full is better than a glass completely empty,” he says. “If all we can get for the time being is a temporary extension, that’s what we’ll have to put up with.”
Lee says he feels very welcomed by presumptive Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other members of the Senate leadership. There’s no rift between the tea party movement and the Republican establishment, he says.
“Tea party principles are in lock step with principles of the Republican Party. We stand for a limited government . . . We can work together, and we will work together.”
Tea party members in the House have formed a caucus. An informal caucus of tea partyers already exists among incoming Republican Sens. Lee, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Marco Rubio of Florida, and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Lee says.
“What remains to be seen is the exact level of formality of such a caucus,” he says.
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