ABC News’ Rick Klein ( @rickklein ) reports:
With Congress deadlocked over deficit and debt issues, a group of conservative Republicans is moving forward with their bottom-line demands for a higher debt ceiling: congressional enactment of a balanced-budget amendment.
On ABC’s “Top Line” today, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., called on President Obama to lead a “public debate” that takes the discussion over taxes and budget-cutting out of secret negotiations.
He said he and his fellow conservatives are willing to approve a higher debt limit if Congress votes to enact a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget, something he said could happen in a matter of weeks.
“We will vote to raise the debt ceiling if we get a balanced-budget amendment,” Paul told us. “We want it contingent on a balanced-budget amendment, because what we don't want to do is just give a blank check. We've raised the debt ceiling 74 times, and nothing ever changes in this city -- they're fiscally irresponsible. And we will do it if they're forced to balance a budget like most states in the country are forced to balance a budget.”
Paul said he’s willing to consider closing tax loopholes as part of deficit negotiations. He also raised another option: cutting entitlement benefits to higher-income Americans.
“There is a compromise we could find,” he said. “Let’s means-test benefits – let’s means-test Social Security and Medicare and make the rich pay more for these benefits. And that would be an answer that would please everyone -- you would get some Republicans for that, and the Democrats would get what they want is that the rich have more of the burden. I think that’s a compromise that would work. But if the President insists on raising taxes in the middle of a recession, we will oppose him.”
Paul said it would be unrealistic to wait for enactment of an amendment – constitutional amendments require approval of three-fourths of the states – but reasonable to expect that the House and Senate could approve the amendment rather quickly.
“We could do that in a two week’s period. We can do that next week. We can do that whenever the Democrats will let us have the vote,” Paul said.
And Paul said he rejects the notion – put forward by the Obama administration – that failing to raise the debt limit by August 2 will result in financial calamity.
“If we cross August 2 nd, it’s not financial Armageddon as they're trying to make it out to be. It’s not an either/or situation -- we bring in $200 billion in revenue every month, our interest payment is about $20 billion. We have plenty of revenue to pay our interest every month. The president, if he were responsible, should today stand up and say, ‘I will not default on the debt.’ ”
Watch the full interview with Sen. Rand Paul HERE.