Today, Senator Mike Lee introduced a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution that requires Washington to live within it means and puts strict limits on the ability of Congress to run deficits and add to the national debt.
"Washington's insatiable need to borrow and spend has put off difficult decisions and threatened the prosperity of future generations. It is unconscionable and immoral," said Senator Lee, a member of the Joint Economic Committee. "We have an obligation to correct course and put the country on a responsible path to fiscal sustainability. Families, businesses, and state and local governments are all expected to live within their means. The federal government should do the same.
"All past efforts of Congress to limit spending have utterly failed. None of the existing restraints -- the Budget Act, spending caps, the debt limit, the sequester -- have gotten spending under control, and we have $16.4 trillion of debt to prove it. Only a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution will permanently bind Congress and force both parties to live within the nation's means. Anything less will simply maintain our dysfunctional and unsustainable status quo."
The proposed amendment, S. J. Res 1, requires Congress to spend no more than it takes in during any fiscal year and limits spending to 18% of the gross national product, the 40 year historical average of total federal receipts. Congress can only run a deficit, raise taxes or increase the debt limit if agreed to by a two-thirds vote of both the House and Senate. The amendment gives standing to any member of Congress to seek judicial enforcement of the balanced budget requirement as long as they have been authorized to do so by a petition signed by one-third of either the House or the Senate. The amendment would become effective one year after ratification by three-fourths of the states.
Senator Lee has been a tireless advocate of a balanced budget amendment and has authored two previous versions. A vote on S. J. Res 10 in the 112th Congress received the support of 47 senators.
Bipartisan support for a balanced budget amendment has grown in recent years. A sense of the Senate resolution in support of amending the constitution to require a balanced budget received 58 votes in 2011, and nearly two dozen Democrats voted in favor of an alternative version of Senator Lee's balanced budget amendment. At least 23 Democrats have indicated their support for the provision in the past.