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McCaskill, GOP rivals back different balanced budget amendments

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Aug. 5, 2011 - As Missouri's U.S. Senate contest begins to heat up, prospective voters likely will hear a lot about balanced budget amendments to the Constitution. But not all are the same.

U.S. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., declared her support Thursday for a balanced budget amendment -- but it's a version far different from the one supported by her two announced Republican rivals: U.S. Rep. Todd Akin and former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman.

The version backed by McCaskill would, in her words:

  • "Require balanced budgets beginning in five years;
  • "Protect Social Security and give Congress the flexibility to improve the long-term health of Medicare without ending the program as we know it;
  • "Prevent Congress from passing tax cuts for individuals earning more than $1 million per year, unless the country maintains a budget surplus."

The version backed by McCaskill also could be suspended in time of war.
The Republican-controlled U.S. House has passed a couple of versions of the balanced budget amendment. Akin voted for the version that would require a two-thirds vote in the House and Senate before any taxes could be raised.

Steelman also has endorsed a balanced budget amendment although she has not been specific on the particular provisions. The version in House Speaker John Boehner's debt-ceiling bill did not include the two-thirds requirement for tax hikes.

McCaskill said the version she supports "is a responsible, commonsense plan that would hold Congress accountable, get the country's fiscal house in order and make sure everybody has some skin in the game -- all while protecting Social Security and not forcing an end to Medicare as we know it."

But the Missouri Republican Party called her a "chameleon'' on the balanced budget issue because she had opposed the version backed by Akin. "Less than two weeks ago, McCaskill had an opportunity to demonstrate her support for a balanced budget amendment when it actually mattered -- but instead, she voted against even debating a Republican plan to balance the federal budget," the state GOP said.

"Chameleon Claire McCaskill should know that actions speak louder than words," said Lloyd Smith, executive director of the Missouri Republican Party. "Over the past three years, McCaskill has voted in lockstep with Barack Obama on everything from the failed stimulus to Obamacare, racking up more $4 trillion in debt along the way. Two weeks ago, she voted against even debating a balanced budget amendment. Now, as her scandal-plagued campaign heats up, she says she wants to cut spending? Missourians just aren't buying it."

The National Republican Senatorial Committee later offered up similar attacks.

UPDATE:

At the same time that she is staking out positions, McCaskill also is focusing on beefing up her campaign cash -- and promoting local Democratic unity as well.

Next Tuesday evening, the St. Louis Democratic Party -- along with party officials, legislators and leaders throughout the region -- are hosting a fundraising event for McCaskill at McGurk's bar in Soulard, a popular site for Democratic fundraising events. Tickets go up to $1,000 apiece.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

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