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Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions-Continued - Balanced Budget Amendment

Location: Washington, DC



S.J. Res. 2. A joint resolution proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States to require a balanced budget and protect Social Security surpluses; to the Committee on the Judiciary.

Mr. CRAIG. Mr. President, today I am reintroducing a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. When we were in deficit and when we were in surplus, I have always said, if we could adopt one fundamental reform to the way the Federal Government does business, this is it. The fiscal events of the last couple years have again demonstrated the need for this long-term, fundamental, permanent reform.

For many Americans, one of the signs of our deep respect for the Constitution is our acknowledgment that, in exceptional cases, a problem rises to such a level that it can be adequately addressed only in the Constitution, by way of a Constitutional amendment.

For four years in a row, a modern record, the first time since the 1920s, Congress balanced the Federal budget. The first Republican Congresses in 40 years made balancing the budget their top priority, and did what was necessary, working on a bipartisan basis, to run the kind of surpluses we need to pay down the national debt and safeguard the future of Social Security.

Then events intervened.

A return to budget deficits was caused by an economic recession and a war begun by a terrorist attack. Even before taking office, President Bush correctly foresaw the coming recession and prescribed the right medicine, the bipartisan Tax Relief Act of 2001, that has bolstered the economy and prevented a far worse recession.

Sadly, at least on the budget front, the Senate did not rise to the challenge. Last year, many of us were deeply disappointed by the Senate's failure to pass a budget resolution for the first time in the history of the Budget Act. That failure only made the need for fiscal discipline all the more evident, as we saw a return to deepening deficit spending.

The return to deficit spending can and should be a temporary phenomenon. We will rebound from the recent economic slowdown. And we must do whatever it takes to win the war, that's a matter of survival and of protecting the safety and security of the American people. Beyond that, we must keep all other Federal spending under control, so that we return, as soon as possible, to balancing the budget.

In other words, the return to deficit spending will be a temporary problem only if we make a permanent commitment to the moral imperative of fiscal responsibility.

We always did, and always will, need a Balanced Budget Amendment to our Constitution.

Even in the heady days of budget surpluses, I always maintained the only way to guarantee that the Federal Government would stay fiscally responsible was to add a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution.

Before we balanced the budget in 1998, the government was deficit spending for 28 years in a row and for 59 out of 67 years. The basic law of politics, to just say "yes", was not repealed in 1998, but only restrained some, when we came together and briefly faced up to the grave threat to the future posed by decades of debt.

Now, the government is back to borrowing. And for some, a return to deficit spending seems to have been liberating, as the demands for new spending only seem to be multiplying again.

That is why, today, I am again introducing a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution and calling upon my colleagues to send it to the states for ratification. The amendment I introduce today is the same one I cosponsored last year, which would not count the Social Security surplus in its calculation of a balanced budget. Those annual surpluses would be set aside exclusively to meet the future needs of Social Security beneficiaries.

It's a new day, a new year, and a new Senate. We have the opportunity of a fresh start and, hopefully, the wisdom of experience. On this first day of the 108th Congress, with the first piece of legislation I am introducing this year, I call on the Senate to safeguard the future, by considering and passing a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution, a Bill of Economic Rights for our future and our children.

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