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Introduction of a 3-Part Balanced Budget Constitutional Amendment

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. GOODLATTE. Mr. Speaker, I rise to re-introduce legislation that will amend the United States Constitution to force Congress to rein in spending by balancing the federal budget.

We have a spending addiction in Washington, D.C., and it has proven to be an addiction that Congress cannot control on its own and which is bringing dire consequences. We have gone in a few short years from a deficit of billions of dollars to a deficit of trillions of dollars. We are printing money at an unprecedented pace, which presents serious risks of massive inflation. Our national debt recently surpassed an astonishing $16 trillion and continues to rapidly increase, along with the waste associated with paying the interest on that debt.

Our first Secretary of State, Thomas Jefferson, warned of the consequences of out-of-control debt when he wrote: "To preserve [the] independence [of the people,] we must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt. We must make our election between economy and liberty, or profusion and servitude.'' Unfortunately, it increasingly appears that Congress has chosen the latter path.

Our current Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, issued a similar warning when she recently declared: "I think that our rising debt levels [sic] poses a national security threat, and it poses a national security threat in two ways. It undermines our capacity to act in our own interest, and it does constrain us where constraint may be undesirable. And it also sends a message of weakness internationally.'' Despite these warnings, Congress has refused to address this crisis.

Congress' spending addiction is not a partisan one. It reaches across the aisle and afflicts both parties, which is why neither party has been able to master it. We need outside help. We need pressure from outside Congress to force Congress to rein in this out-of-control behavior. We need a balanced budget amendment to our Constitution.

That is why I am introducing this legislation--a commonsense, 3-part balanced budget Constitutional amendment which garnered the support of 133 bipartisan cosponsors last Congress. This bill would (1) amend the Constitution to require that total spending for any fiscal year not exceed total receipts; (2) require that bills to raise revenues pass each House of Congress by a 3/5 majority; and (3) establish an annual spending cap such that total federal spending could not exceed 1/5 of the economic output of the United States.

The bill would also require a 3/5 majority vote for any increases in the debt limit.

The legislation provides an exception in times of war and during military conflicts that pose imminent and serious military threats to national security.

Our federal government must be lean, efficient and responsible with the dollars that our nation's citizens worked so hard to earn. We must work to both eliminate every cent of waste and squeeze every cent of value out of each dollar our citizens entrust to us. Families all across our nation understand what it means to make tough decisions each day about what they can and cannot afford and government officials should be required to exercise similar restraint when spending the hard-earned dollars of our nation's citizens.

By amending the Constitution to require a balanced budget, establish measurable spending limits, and make it harder to raise taxes, we can force the Congress to control spending, paving the way for a return to surpluses and ultimately paying down the national debt, rather than allow big spenders to lead us further down the road of chronic deficits and in doing so leave our children and grandchildren saddled with debt that is not their own.

49 out of 50 states have a balanced budget requirement, and it is time that the federal government had one too.

Our nation faces many difficult decisions in the coming years, and Congress will face great pressure to spend beyond its means rather than to make the difficult decisions about spending priorities. Unless Congress is forced to make the decisions necessary to create a balanced budget, it will always have the all-too-tempting option of shirking this responsibility. A Constitutional balanced budget requirement, combined with the spending and tax limitations in this legislation, will set our nation's fiscal policies on the right path. This is a common sense approach to ensure that Congress is bound by the same fiscal principles that guide America's families each day. I urge support of this important legislation.

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