Balancing the Federal Budget
In order for Congress to be able to consistently make the tough decisions necessary to sustain fiscal responsibility, there must be the external pressure of a balanced budget requirement to force it to do so. Constitutional principle will prevail where political promises have not.A balanced budget is a simple but important philosophy. The belief that one should not spend more money than they take in is shared by the vast majority of Americans. But for some reason, the federal government continues to spend exponentially more than it receives in revenue, and the result is staggering debt and exploding deficits—a financial and economic disaster being left for future generations.
Americans across the nation are expected to responsibly manage their finances, and so should Congress. Experience has proven time and again that the federal government cannot for any significant length of time rein in excessive spending. In order for Congress to be able to consistently make the tough decisions necessary to sustain fiscal responsibility, there must be the external pressure of a balanced budget requirement to force it to do so. Constitutional principle will prevail where political promises have not.
For this reason, I have introduced resolutions in the House of Representatives since 2007 to add a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. A constitutional amendment forcing Congress to implement a balanced budget would restore discipline to federal spending and protect our nation’s fiscal health. But this is no easy feat. Amending the Constitution requires a two-thirds majority from both the House and Senate and ratification by three-fourths of state legislatures. On April 12, the House took a vote on my proposed balanced budget amendment. Unfortunately, while almost every Republican voted in favor of the amendment, only a handful of House Democrats supported the measure.
This was not the first time a balanced budget amendment has come before Congress. In 1995, when the balanced budget amendment came within one vote of passing, the federal debt stood at $4.9 trillion. Today, it stands at over $20 trillion. If Congress had listened to the American people and sent that amendment to the states for ratification, we would not be facing the fiscal crisis we are today. Rather, balancing the federal budget would have been the norm, instead of the exception, over the past 20 years.
Although I am disappointed the vote on my amendment failed to receive the support of two-thirds of the House this month, the work to get federal spending under control is still far from over. The states could also amend the Constitution by holding a convention. There are now 28 states in which the legislatures have passed resolutions calling for a convention that would propose a balanced budget amendment—only six more states are needed. I hope more states, including Virginia, will join the call for requiring a balanced budget.
This extraordinary fiscal crisis demands an extraordinary solution. Our nation’s leaders must recognize the threat out-of-control spending has on national security and our economic prosperity. We must continue the fight to free our children and grandchildren from the burden of a crippling debt they had no hand in creating, so they can be free to chart their own futures for themselves and for their posterity.