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Public Statements

Proposing a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. MATHESON. I thank the gentleman from Virginia (Mr. Goodlatte) for introducing the bill, and I thank the gentleman from Virginia for the time.

You know, I'm part of the Blue Dog Coalition, a group of conservative Democrats, and for 16 years the Blue Dogs have been advocating a balanced budget amendment.

It really shouldn't be about Democrats and Republicans. Since I've been in Congress, I've been here when Democrats controlled Congress and Republicans controlled Congress. I've been here when Democrats controlled the White House and Republicans controlled the White House, and neither party has the best track record on the deficit issue. And that's why I think the balanced budget amendment makes sense, because I think we need a structural requirement that brings everyone to the table and says this is what you've got to do, Democrats or Republicans.

This shouldn't be a partisan issue. This should be an issue about setting a path forward that creates stability and sends the right message to the American people and to the rest of the world that we know how to live within our means.

Now, I have to say that I wish we had more support on my side of the aisle than we do because, as I said, I don't think it's a Democratic or Republican issue. I think it's an issue that we all ought to be looking at--balancing the books, balancing your budget. Families do it every day. States do it. At least 49 States have a requirement for a balanced budget. I think that this country needs that, too, and I urge all my colleagues to support this amendment and put us on a path to fiscal responsibility.

Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself 1 minute to ask the speaker who just finished, if I could gain his attention for a moment. I thank the gentleman for coming back into the well.

Does the gentleman agree with me, in examining this bill, that this bill risks default by the United States by requiring a supermajority to raise the debt limit, which is not the case now?

I yield to my friend.

Mr. MATHESON. I think it's the same threshold that requires us to make a decision to deficit spend. It's the same supermajority for that as well. So I think that what we do is we're putting a requirement in where, if you want to default or if you want to raise the debt limit or if you want to deficit spend, it requires a supermajority. But if you want to pass a budget that is within balance, it doesn't require a supermajority. It requires a simple majority, and that's the way the bill is structured.

Mr. CONYERS. Did the gentleman say yes or no to my question?

Mr. MATHESON. I said no.

Mr. CONYERS. That a supermajority is not required to raise the debt limit under this bill?

The SPEAKER pro tempore. The time of the gentleman has expired.

Mr. CONYERS. I yield myself an additional minute, and I yield to my friend.

Mr. MATHESON. As I said, let's not do apples and oranges here. Let's do apples and apples. If this Congress wants to act in a way to pass a balanced budget, it doesn't require a supermajority. If this Congress wants to make a decision to deficit spend, it can do that with a supermajority, and that's the same requirement as if it wants to raise the debt limit.

By the way, if a simple majority balances the budget, there is no need to raise the debt limit. There's no need to raise the debt limit if we have a balanced budget, and that would be a simple majority to pass a balanced budget each year.


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