WHEELING - As congressional leaders continue to argue over the nation's spending, Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum Tuesday called for the passage of a federal balanced budget amendment.
Santorum said he supports a balanced budget amendment stating that government can only spend a certain percentage of the economy.
"We have to be able to get a balanced budget amendment to the constitution passed in some form," he said.
"For example, if the economy is $1 million, government can only spend $180,000 - that would be a limit of 18 percent," he said. "Would I like it to be set at 16 to 17 percent? Yes. Eighteen percent? I'm willing to negotiate.
"But we need to have a balanced budget amendment. We need to stop this insanity of overspending and mortgaging our children's future. Government could become so big we could become like Europe, and addicted to government handouts."
Santorum said a balanced budget amendment "is the atypical way of Washington doing something, which is actually putting constraint on the folks who get to Washington."
"If we don't do that, then there is a very good chance that the very foundational freedoms of our country are going to be in danger," he said.
Santorum wants "some sort of statutory cap on spending for the short-term," as well as the balanced budget amendment with a limit on how much government can spend.
Santorum added that to reduce government spending, he also would like to see a repeal of health care reform legislation passed by Congress.
"That's the key - that we have a noose on the size of government going forward so that it doesn't grow so big that it overwhelms the economy or the country," he said. "I call it the 'Freedom of the Debt,' which protects us from a big and intrusive government."
Santorum said Republicans need to be consistent in their message as they negotiate.
"The greatest advantage a president has is he is one voice," he said. "And unfortunately, there have been many voices among the Republicans, and they haven't always been in harmony."
He believes those involved will seek a bipartisan accord.
"They have to," Santorum said adding that Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., "is someone who can step forward. He represents what is increasingly a conservative state, and he wants to see responsible government. He should step up and do the right thing."