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Public Statements

Proposing a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution

Floor Speech

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. KIND. Mr. Speaker, may I inquire, does the majority side have an extra minute that they could spare?

Mr. SMITH of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I will yield the gentleman an extra minute.

The SPEAKER pro tempore. The gentleman from Wisconsin is recognized for 3 minutes.

Mr. KIND. Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of the balanced budget amendment.

Mr. Speaker, I do believe that this Congress needs rules, it needs rules in budgeting. But I can't help but believe today that the easier and more practical response to the huge budget deficits that we face is going back to a tried and true method called pay-as-you-go budgeting rules.

Pay-as-you-go budgeting was a simple concept--you've got revenue reduction, spending increase, you've got to find an offset in the budget to pay for it. It was a rule that was in place in the 1990s that led to 4 years of budget surpluses. We were actually paying down the national debt rather than adding to it.

Unfortunately, when President Bush took office, along with the Republican majority in Congress they immediately repealed pay-as-you-go budgeting rules which enabled them to support two wars that went unpaid for. They had two tax cuts that went unpaid for that primarily benefited the most wealthy in this country, and you may recall that the main justification for those tax cuts was their fear that we were going to pay down the national debt too fast. It was laughable then as it is laughable today. And then they supported the largest increase in entitlement spending since Medicare was created in 1965 with a new prescription drug bill that was not paid for. And these are ongoing financial obligations right now, adding to the fiscal woes that we're trying to climb out of as a Nation.

But I know that the majority today does not embrace pay-as-you-go budgeting, even though it worked in the 1990s, even though it helped create 27 million private sector jobs during that period and left an era of budget surpluses. So the next best thing we have to instill some fiscal discipline in this place is through a balanced budget amendment, going through that laborious process of trying to find two-thirds in the House and the Senate and then three-quarters of the States to embrace it. And if that's what it takes to get our fiscal house in order, to check against unbridled tax cuts that aren't paid for, or new increase in spending that goes unpaid for, then it's a risk worth taking because we are jeopardizing the future of our Nation, our children's future with these ongoing budget deficits, and steps need to be taken right now.

There is a legitimate concern, however, that Members on my side of the aisle have been expressing--the three-fifths vote in order to increase the debt ceiling. We saw how perilously close we came to defaulting on our Nation's obligations over the summer. And I fear that through this amendment a minority in this body could literally hold the rest of our Nation hostage or paralyze the functioning of our government or lead to the default on our obligations. I still think that's a legitimate concern that's not addressed through this amendment. In fact, it makes that probability more likely, and it's something that we're going to have to address as we move forward.

But today, I think, given the lack of options that we face and the dire situation that we have with the budget deficits and the lack of progress, unfortunately, with the supercommittee that we've seen over the last couple of months, that the balanced budget amendment seems like the most practical approach given the political realities.

I urge and encourage my colleagues to support it.

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Mr. KIND. Madam Speaker, today I rise in support of H.J. Res. 2, the Balanced Budget Amendment.

The Balanced Budget Amendment is now the only check on the last decade Republican fiscal mismanagement. It is a practical solution to the last decade of Republican irresponsible spending. Of course, the easier response than going through the process of amending the U.S. Constitution is reinstituting pay-as-you-go budgeting rules, which I fully support. Unfortunately, my Republican colleagues do not.

Pay-as-you-go budgeting led our country into the healthy economic dynamic we saw in the 1990's under President Clinton. It, too, forced us to make tough decisions about our spending, but led to four years of budget surpluses, 27 million private sector jobs, and excess payments on our national debt. Unfortunately, the Republicans squandered all of that away as they recklessly cast aside fiscal discipline to enter two wars, enact two large tax cuts, and increase entitlement spending, all of which were not paid for. And all of which transformed our country from one with a budget surplus to one with a $1.5 trillion budget deficit in just eight short years.

I share my colleagues' concerns about the requirement for a supermajority to raise the debt ceiling in light of the irresponsible actions of House Republicans earlier this year when they nearly forced the U.S. Government into default.

We must act with fiscal responsibility and attention to long-term deficit reduction. And time is of the essence for the sake of economic growth and job creation--now and for future generations.

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