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McCain: Lee, freshman GOP senators 'foolish'

Published July 27, 2011 3:10 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

> Sen. Mike Lee's sole mission of late, it seems, has been tying a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution to any potential increase to the nation's debt ceiling. And a senior Republican senator says that idea is just bunk and freshman GOP members need to scale it back.

"What is really amazing about this is that some - some members are believing that we can pass a balanced budget amendment to the constitution in this body with its present representation and that is foolish," McCain said on the Senate floor Wednesday.

"That is worse than foolish; that is deceiving," McCain added.

McCain, who said he takes a back seat to no one on support for such a constitutional amendment and has supported one 13 times, added that its not fair to the American people to say that any raise to the debt ceiling should only happen with a balanced budget addition to the Constitution.

"It's unfair; It's bizzaro," said McCain, who was the Republican presidential nominee in 2008. "And maybe some people [who] have been in this body for six or seven months or so really believe that. But to somehow think or tell our citizens that if we have enough debate ... in the Senate in the next six days that we will pass a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution is unfair to our constituents."

McCain didn't single out any senators, though his remarks are clearly targeting the upper chamber's newbies, including Lee and Sens. Rand Paul and Pat Toomey, all of whom are pushing a balanced budget amendment. Lee is the lead sponsor of a bill in the Senate that would require cuts to the government's spending, limits on what the government pays out and a balanced budget amendment.

Brian Phillips, Lee's communication's director, sidestepped McCain's blunt criticism and laid the blame at the feet of Democrats.

"What's foolish and unfair to the American people is racking up $14 trillion in debt and attempting to dig $2.4 trillion deeper without fundamentally reforming the federal government's irresponsible spending habits," Phillips said in a statement. "A balanced budget amendment could be passed in plenty of time. Unfortunately, the Democrats won't support it because they are deathly afraid the American people would ratify it and finally require Washington to be fiscally responsible."

— Thomas Burr Twitter.com/thomaswburr