DENVER (CBS4) – As the federal debt soars to $15 trillion, a Colorado senator is fighting for a constitutional amendment that would require Congress balance the budget every year.
There will be a vote Wednesday on Sen. Mark Udall’s amendment. CBS4 Political Specialist Shaun Boyd sat down with the senator to talk about the amendment, and the fallout.
Even Udall expected to take a lot of heat for his amendment, and he has from his own party, but he isn’t backing down.
Udall was the first Democrat to sign on to a balanced budget amendment, and for a long time he went it alone, arguing Congress had no fiscal discipline and the only way to change its buy-now, pay-later mentality was with a constitutional amendment. On Tuesday he made a case for the amendment on the Senate floor.
“I’ve had my fair share of ribbing and teasing and harsh comments directed at me,” Udall said.
Udall hails from a family so liberal they’ve been called the Kennedy’s of The West. His father was the late Mo Udall of Arizona, a 30-year congressman and 1976 Democratic presidential candidate. Udall says he’s following his father’s lead.
“My dad, in the first month he was in the Congress, gave a speech about the need for a balanced federal budget,” Udall said.
Fast forward 50 years.
“Make the tough decisions necessary to get our national debt under control,” he said in his speech to Congress.
“If we run our fiscal house in the red we’re going to run our country into the ground,” Udall told Boyd. “There’s no question that’s the direction we’re headed. That’s why I’m very passionate about this.”
He admitted it’s not the first time he’s bucked his party on fiscal matters.
“I supported idea of a line-item veto. I supported the pay-as-you-go process. I looked at and then proposed eliminating earmarks, which we’ve done. I signed on to the initial version of Bowles-Simpson.”
They are positions many Democrats oppose, but Udall says he’s a “Western” Democrat.
“Western progressives, Western Democrats always have been independent-minded. We’ve always understood if you’re going to invest in communities you have to be fiscally responsible.”
Still, his proposal marks the first time since the mid 1990s a Democratic senator has floated a balanced budget amendment. That one failed by one vote.
“I think it’s an uphill climb right now; it’s a big mountain, I’m a mountain climber. We’re going to keep climbing the mountain. If I don’t find the way to put the 2/3rds of the senators behind this, I’m not stopping.”
Udall says he now has support from Republicans and Democrats. His amendment has something for both of them. It protects Social Security revenue from being used for general fund purposes and prohibits tax breaks for people earning more than $1 million a year, unless the country has a budget surplus.