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Published March 19 2012

Heitkamp makes budget-control commitments

FARGO – If Democrat Heidi Heitkamp is elected to the U.S. Senate, she says she will support a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution and cuts to congressional office spending.

“Where in the past, I haven’t always been a big fan of amending the Constitution to take care of things that legislators and public servants can do all on their own ... I’ve been persuaded in the last year,” Heitkamp said in a conference call on Monday with state and national reporters.

She said Congress’ “colossal failure” to act on recommendations by the president’s bipartisan fiscal commission and the congressional super-committee reinforced the lack of fiscal discipline in Washington.

“It almost becomes essential, if we’re going to get this job done, to impose some kind of guideline that is rigid and fair, so they have a direct obligation,” she said.

However, Heitkamp said she would want some flexibility in requiring a balanced budget, so exceptions could be made in wartime and for entitlement spending, like Medicare and Social Security.

“This is not a problem with Social Security,” she said. “It doesn’t seem fair that Social Security would be part of any sort of sequestration. ... I think it needs its own process.”

Heitkamp also pledged to cut congressional office budgets by at least 5 percent, and she vowed to vote against any congressional pay raise unless the federal budget is balanced.

Heitkamp organized the conference call to reiterate her opposition to official House mailings Rep. Rick Berg sent out last year, which cost taxpayers about $110,000 and which Democrats say crossed the line into campaign material.

Berg is seeking the Republican nomination in the U.S. Senate race. Through aides, he has consistently denied the official mailings were campaign material.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kristen Daum at (701) 241-5541