WASHINGTON – Senate Republicans expressed frustration with the country’s ballooning debt and deficit by introducing a constitutional amendment requiring the federal government to have a balanced budget.
“Regrettably,Washington has proven it won’t solve this crisis on its own,” Sen. Orrin Hatch,R-Utah,said. “If every state,except Vermont,and countries like Germany and Switzerland are required to balance their budget,it’s past time Washington is required to do the same.”
The amendment would require that the president propose a balanced budget and that budget proposals not exceed government revenues. Tax increases would require a two-thirds vote in both houses of Congress,and federal spending could not exceed 20 percent of GDP. The amendment’s provisions could be overturned if there were a formal declaration of war or the country became involved in a military conflict threatening national security. A two-thirds vote by both houses could also overturn the provisions.
The senators said the surge in government spending over the past two years,the nation’s $14 trillion debt and the Congressional Budget Office’s new report revealing a predicted $1.5 trillion budget deficit for 2011 demonstrate the need for the amendment. They emphasized that a balanced budget is crucial to national security,economic prosperity and maintaining a high quality of life.
“I can’t think of a more important constitutional amendment at this time in our nation’s history with the threat of debt and runaway spending so high,” Sen. John Cornyn,R-Texas,said. “I am confident now is the time for the American people to take control of their government again.”
Cornyn and Hatch introduced the amendment and have received support from 19 other Republican senators. Americans for Tax Reform,the American Conservative Union and National Chairman of Pass the Balanced Budget Amendment Ken Blackwell have also voiced their support for the amendment.
This is not the first time an amendment requiring a balanced budget has been proposed. Former Nebraska Senator and Congressman Carl Curtis introduced legislation calling for a balanced budget amendment in 1951 and reintroduced the amendment as a senator in 1978. Rep. James M. Inhofe,R- Okla.,said at the press conference that he collaborated with Curtis on a balanced budget amendment in the 1970s. Hatch proposed a balanced budget amendment in 1997 that fell one vote shy of meeting the requirement of the two-thirds votes needed to ratify an amendment.
Though the amendment has so far garnered exclusively Republican backing,the senators said they are confident the amendment will receive bipartisan support.
“I think you’ll see a lot of Democrats stepping forward as well. And around the country seeing a lot Democrats,independents and Republicans joining this effort,understanding this is only common sense,” Sen. Rob Portman,R-Ohio,said.
Cornyn said he and the other senators did not seek Democratic support before the press conference because they just started working on the amendment and are building up a core group of Republicans. Cornyn said Hatch’s previous proposed amendment in 1997 garnered 11 Democratic votes.