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Public Statements

Proposing an Amendment to the Constitution Relative to Requiring a Balanced Budget--S.J. Res. 24--Continued

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. DeMINT. I wish to thank my colleague from Louisiana, who has made great points about where we are.

I do think it is good news that we are talking about balancing the budget, but unfortunately, as we often do, this is really a political show more than a real attempt to actually balance the budget. The whole process is set up to fail.

We know the President has said that we don't need to balance our budget and that it is an extreme idea. The majority leader here in the Senate has called a bill that cuts spending and caps spending and sends a balanced budget amendment to the States to ratify the worst legislation he has ever seen. Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader in the House, has said that to balance the budget would cost jobs and that we would do it on the backs of the poor. Now we are to believe that our colleagues on the Democratic side here are serious about working with us to balance the budget.

The situation is too serious to just play politics, and I know from talking to a number of my Democratic colleagues that they feel the same way, that they know we need to balance the budget. It is very difficult for them as a party because a lot of their platform is based on more promises for government and more government spending.

In effect, a balanced budget amendment that meant we couldn't spend more than we were bringing in would change politics in Washington forever, which is something we have to do. But at least we are discussing the idea of balancing the budget.

We know that the President's budget, the only budget we have seen--we haven't seen one out of the Senate in the last several years--increased our debt another $10 trillion over the next 10 years. It didn't balance it.

Just about every Republican voted for a budget, a 10-year budget offered by Senator Pat Toomey that balanced in 10 years without cutting Social Security or Medicare. So we can do it. We can do it without hurting Americans. If we do it now, we can actually control our own destiny rather than what we see across the Atlantic in Greece and other European countries. They lost control of their destiny. They are now in the control of other countries and of fate. But America is still in a position that, if we make the decisions now to begin the process to balance our budget, even if it took 10 years, we could save our country and perhaps save freedom for the world. But there is no question that if we continue on the same course we are on today, we will bankrupt our Nation, lose control of our destiny, and change the world forever. But at least we are talking about balancing the budget, and maybe that is a good first step.

Today, the Democrats have offered a weak alternative to the Republican balanced budget so that they can say they are for it. Again, I think that is important to get on record, that we are at least for the idea of stopping spending more than we are bringing in. For the past 2 1/2 years, as I mentioned, the Senate Democrats, who are in charge here, haven't even produced a budget, let alone the idea of balancing one. President Obama, as I said, proposed a budget that doubled the national debt in the next 10 years. That is not responsible leadership at a time when we are already at an unsustainable debt level.

Despite all the bipartisan promises to cut spending, Washington is still voting to make government bigger and more expensive than ever. And this includes some Republicans joining the fray here to just increase spending. Federal spending went up 5 percent in the first 9 months of the year despite all the hoopla about us doing something about spending.

There is one way to judge whether we are cutting spending or not, despite all the rhetoric here and the Washington-speak. If we want to know whether we are spending more, we just have to ask ourselves: Are we spending more than we did last year? The answer is yes. And we are going to spend more next year than we did this year, based on the bills we are passing this week and next. So this isn't austerity. It is gluttony. It is political gluttony.

Since Obama became President, the debt limit has been raised four times. The debt is rising faster and higher than ever. Yet the Senate refuses to pass a budget or cut spending. We must budget and balance the budget or we are going to bring down our whole country.

Republicans have offered a strong balanced budget amendment that limits government spending to 18 percent of gross domestic product--GDP--and requires a two-thirds majority to raise taxes, and it has earned the support of every Republican in the Senate. That is pretty unusual for us. Passage of that amendment should have been tied to the last increase in the debt limit, but it wasn't. President Obama was given another $2 trillion to borrow, and Americans received nothing in return, no cuts in spending.

The Democratic amendment differs in three ways from the Republican amendment.

What Republicans are trying to do is to reduce the level of spending relative to our total economy and to make sure it is difficult to raise taxes to balance the budget. And we should all agree on that. We shouldn't go back to the taxpayer every time we spend too much. The emphasis should be on reducing our spending. But the Democratic amendment doesn't cap spending to the historical levels, which means we can balance the budget by raising taxes and continuing to increase spending. So our amendment is designed to cap that spending at a certain level.

Secondly, the Democratic balanced budget amendment does not require a supermajority to raise taxes. So during regular order here, we can increase taxes to meet the requirement to balance the budget. It would be a nice safeguard for the American taxpayer that we would at least have to get a supermajority to raise taxes in order to balance the budget.

For some reason, the Democratic balanced budget amendment inserts just an element of class warfare, saying that we cannot decrease taxes on those making over $1 million. It doesn't sound like something we would do anyway, but it is not something that should be part of a constitutional amendment that we send to the States to ratify.

The strong Republican balanced budget amendment would force both parties to find ways to cut spending and reform entitlements. Those are the things we have to do. The weaker Democratic version does not do that because it preserves the status quo where it is easier to raise taxes than cut spending, which is where we are today.

For the past 2 1/2 years, Senate Democrats have not produced a budget, let alone a balanced one. President Obama proposed a budget this year that doubled the national debt. Again, that is not a budget; that is a loan application and this country cannot continue to operate based on more borrowed money and more spending and more threats of raising taxes.

If we want to get the economy going and balance our budget, we have to cut spending. That is the whole idea of the Republican balanced budget amendment. Let's get serious about saving our country and the freedoms for which so many have fought. If we do not do it soon, we will lose control of our destiny.

I yield the floor.

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