With few firm offers in play for increasing the federal debt ceiling in advance of the Aug. 2 deadline, Sen. Mike Lee opted Thursday to lead out by introducing the Cut, Cap and Balance Act of 2011.
"There has been a surprising and somewhat disturbing absence of serious proposals on the table (for raising the debt limit)," the Utah Republican said. "That is troubling to me on a number of levels — most noticeably what happened a few months ago when we were going through a series of continuing resolutions as we neared what almost became a government shutdown. We don't want that same sort of thing to happen."
The Cut, Cap and Balance Act is like the mirror-image twin brother of the Cut, Cap and Balance Pledge that Lee and Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, endorsed last month. The pledge commits signees against raising the debt limit unless and until Congress passes immediate spending cuts, statutory spending caps and a balanced budget amendment; the new act Lee introduced Thursday takes the affirmative side of the issue and promises to raise the federal debt ceiling once its three prongs of cut-cap-balance are satisfied.
"I expect it to get a lot of support among Republicans in both houses of Congress," Lee said. "I'm also hopeful that we'll get a number of Democrats signing on with us. So far we have not had proposals that have taken off (in Congress)."
Hatch is one of 17 Republican senators co-sponsoring Lee's Cut, Cap and Balance Act.
"I think this is a great idea, a step in the right direction," Hatch told the Deseret News. "There will probably be at least two or three versions (of Republican bills on this issue), and I suspect that Sen. Mitch McConnell's will be the one that will advance. Even so, I commend Sen. Lee for coming up with his version of this. … I suspect that we're going to be unified to try and make it very clear that we've got to have real spending reductions and no tax increases or the debt ceiling's not going to be lifted."
The group Pass the Balanced Budget Amendment is holding a rally Friday in downtown Salt Lake City to promote the Cut, Cap and Balance Pledge. The event begins at 2 p.m. at Washington Square, across the street from Matheson Courthouse.
"We want to bring people out, have them sign the pledge and make sure they get behind it," said state Rep. Carl Wimmer, R-Herriman. "We don't have a lot of time. Our federal leaders are really playing chicken with the clock, and we are on the precipice of financial disaster."