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Boehner Weighs Balanced-Budget Amendment

U.S. House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner told fellow Republicans on Sunday that he is considering a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution as part of a bill that would raise the debt ceiling, a source who heard his message said.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) conducts his weekly news conference at the U.S. Capitol, on July 21, 2011 in Washington, DC.
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House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) conducts his weekly news conference at the U.S. Capitol, on July 21, 2011 in Washington, DC.

That could be a sign that the Republican-controlled House and the Democratic-controlled Senate remain far apart in tense negotiations to avoid an Aug. 2 default.

A balanced-budget amendment is popular with conservatives and was a central element of a bill that failed in the Senate after passing the House last week.

Boehner told Republicans that he was working on a bill that would "reflect the principles" of that effort but provided few details, according to sources familiar with the call.

The balanced-budget amendment wouldn't necessarily have to be a part of his bill. Instead, it could merely require the Senate to hold a separate vote on the idea, pressuring moderate Democrats who have voiced support for it in the past.

Democrats and many economists say that requiring the government to balance its books each year would prevent it from responding to recessions or emergencies.