A dozen phone calls would do it.
The President says this is the only way to fix the budget process. His predecessors, from Ulysses S. Grant to Reagan to Obama, have wanted this authority. Trump now believes this is also the only way to get around the filibuster.
The BBA Task Force, which I have been affiliated with for five years, has passed state legislative Resolutions across the country, calling for a Balanced Budget Amendment. We have never recommended what the content of the Amendment would be. There are so many ideas, to select only one would have unnecessarily alienated some devoted budget balancers.
As a result, when we’re asked, “What would a Balanced Budget Amendment actually say?”, we have no answer. In one sense, we’ve been asking state legislators to buy a pig in a poke. State legislators will decide at the Amendment Convention, we say, and they’ll come up with a good product.
But we don’t know that, and it’s unconvincing. So I propose we change tactics, and push the line-item veto as the goal of a BBA. The Amendment Convention will be controlled by the conservative legislative leaders of the thirty-plus red states. If Trump asks for the line-item veto, they’ll give it to him. I know these people, many of them personally, and they are the most pro-Trump group of politicians in the country. They will be ready to follow the President’s recommendations.
In my opinion, the Amendment Convention should propose a line-item veto, and then adjourn. It’s one thing everyone can agree on, and it’s something the public can understand. You do not want to try to sell a multi-subject Constitutional Amendment. Anything beyond the line-item veto will only antagonize some sector of the electorate, so “keep it simple, stupid”. It’s always good politics.
Typical of the twelve calls will be one to Montana State Senate President Scott Sales, Republican from Bozeman. Senator Sales is afraid of a runaway convention. The President must assure him that he will, personally, never allow that to happen. And tell him how much he wants that line-item veto. Make twelve such calls to state legislative leaders in six Republican-controlled state legislatures, and we’ll get to 34 next year. The Amendment Convention could be held in late summer, and the ratification could be done by State Conventions before the end of 2019. If all went according to plan, Trump could have a line-item veto at the beginning of 2020, with the 2020 Presidential election just months away.
We’ve got the names and the numbers. But the President has to make the calls.