Cut, cap and balance: Van Hollen should read the bill

July 22, 2011

For six straight hours on July 19, Maryland Rep. Chris Van Hollen forcefully led the Democratic floor debate against passage of House Resolution 2560 — the "Cut, Cap, and Balance Act." His biggest problem with the legislation was its requirement for a seemingly onerous balanced budget amendment.

Mr. Van Hollen claimed he wasn't against "garden variety" balanced budget amendments — just this one, because it required limiting annual government spending to an insufficient 18 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product.

Well, maybe 18 percent of GDP is too low; that's worth debating. Here's the thing though: HR 2560 does not mandate an18 percent limit. Rep. Van Hollen didn't read the bill all the way through.

If he had — and if he's truly OK with garden variety balanced budget amendments — he'd be proposing one right now so we could end this debt ceiling crisis. Here's what HR 2560 actually says:

"Effective on the date the Archivist of the United States transmits to the States [one of three recent balanced budget amendment proposals] or a similar amendment if it requires that total outlays not exceed total receipts, contains a spending limitation as a percentage of GDP, and requires tax increases be approved by a two-thirds vote in both houses of Congress for their ratification, [the debt ceiling will be raised $2.4 trillion]."

One should read a bill completely before deciding to oppose it.

Larry Smith, Timonium

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