Hearing of the House Judiciary Committee - Economic Impact of a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution

Statement

By:  Lamar Smith
Date: Oct. 4, 2011
Location: Washington, DC

Americans want the federal government to curb excessive government spending and erase the federal deficit.

Since 1970, the federal budget has only been balanced during one four-year period, when my Republican colleagues and I on the Budget Committee were able to pass the first balanced budget in over 25 years. Meanwhile, the federal deficit has climbed from less than $400 billion in 1970 to over $14 trillion today.

And the national debt has increased 34% under President Obama. That's the fastest increase in the debt under any U.S. president in history.

America cannot continue to run huge federal budget deficits. Financing federal overspending through continued borrowing threatens to drown Americans in high taxes and heavy debt.

The federal government now borrows 42 cents on every dollar it spends. No family, no community, no business, no country can sustain that kind of excessive spending. That is the road to insolvency.

We need a constitutional mandate to limit both the President and Congress to annual budgets that spend no more than the government takes in. Only through a balanced budget constitutional amendment will we save future generations from unending federal deficits.

Just as both parties have joint responsibility for the deficit, we must jointly take responsibility for controlling the deficit by passing this balanced budget amendment.

We came very close to passing a balanced budget amendment in 1995 -- falling just one vote short in the Senate of the required two-thirds majority. In that Congress, the amendment was supported by Minority Whip Hoyer, Assistant Democratic Leader Clyburn and Vice President Biden, among others.

As then-Senator Biden stated in support of the balanced budget amendment,

"… in recent decades, we have faced the problem that we do not seem to be able to solve. We cannot balance our budget, or, more correctly, we will not. . . . The decision to encumber future generations with financial obligations is one that can rightly be considered among the fundamental choices addressed in the Constitution."

It is once again time for Congress to attempt to pass a balanced budget amendment. Polls show that 74% of Americans are in favor of a balanced budget amendment.

If we want to make permanent cuts to federal spending -- cuts that cannot be undone by future Congresses -- a constitutional amendment is the only solution. It is our last line of defense against Congress's unending desire to overspend and overtax.

Amending the Constitution is not easy, nor is it a task that should be taken lightly. We've only amended the Constitution twenty-seven times. But America's continued economic prosperity depends on changing our course on federal spending and growing deficits.

Thomas Jefferson believed that "the public debt is the greatest of dangers to be feared." Jefferson wished "it were possible to obtain a single amendment to our Constitution . . . taking from the Federal Government the power of borrowing."

It is time that we listened to Thomas Jefferson and passed a constitutional amendment to end the federal government's continuous deficit spending. We must solve our debt crisis to save our future.