January 26, 2011
By Malia RulonThe day after President Barack Obama called for reducing spending in his State of the Union address, Ohio's two senators threw their support behind separate bills aimed at doing just that.
Sen. Rob Portman of Terrace Park joined 18 other Republican senators in co-sponsoring a bill that would require Congress to pass a balanced budget. Any tax increases or deficit spending would require a two-thirds majority vote to pass.
"It's really a very simple concept and it's one that's long overdue," said Portman, who was White House budget director under President George W. Bush.
The bill also would require the president to submit a balanced budget to Congress each year and cap annual spending at 20 percent of the gross domestic product. The restrictions could be waived in a time of war.
"This is something that has been talked about for years, but with a record deficit ... it's the right time and the right place," Portman said.
In 1997, a similar measure fell just one vote short. It's unclear if the bill introduced Wednesday could pass the Democratic-controlled Senate. Although Portman and other senators said it will draw bipartisan support, it doesn't appear to have any Democratic co-sponsors.
Meanwhile, Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Lorain Democrat, signed on Wednesday as a co-sponsor of legislation that would prevent lawmakers from getting an automatic pay raise each year.
Under current law, lawmakers receive a cost-of-living wage increase each year unless Congress passes a bill to block it. Congress passed bills in 2010 and this year to do that. Under the bill introduced Wednesday, the process would be reversed - lawmakers wouldn't get a pay raise unless they passed legislation approving one.
"While millions of Ohio families struggle to make ends meet, members of Congress should not receive an automatic salary increase," Brown said. "Too many Ohioans have seen their wages stagnate or even decrease - it's time members of Congress do the same."
The pay-raise bill from Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., also was co-sponsored by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. It's similar to one that had been introduced every year by former Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wisc., but never passed.