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Public Statements

Balanced Budget Constitutional Amendment

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. GOODLATTE. Mr. Speaker, March 2, 1995, was a pivotal day in the history of our country. On that day, the United States Senate failed by one vote to send a balanced budget amendment to the States for ratification. The amendment had passed the House by the required two-thirds majority previously, and the Senate vote was the last legislative hurdle before ratification by the States.

If that amendment had passed, then we would not be dealing with the fiscal crisis we now face. If that amendment had passed, then balancing the budget would have been the norm rather than the exception over the past decade and we would have nothing like the annual deficits and skyrocketing debt that we must address today.

The good news is that, like 1995, this Congress is again standing at a crossroads at this very moment. The decisions we make this week could steer the direction of the country for many years to come. We have an opportunity now to take action to ensure that our children will face a much brighter fiscal picture. We must not allow ourselves to miss this opportunity.

And while, yes, we definitely need to deal with the debt limit squarely in front of us and take the opportunity to make significant cuts in government spending, we also must have a long-term solution to this problem. And that long-term solution is a balanced budget amendment to the United States Constitution. We will, I hope, have the opportunity to vote on such an amendment this week.

Experience has proven time and again that Congress cannot, for any significant length of time, rein in excessive spending. The annual deficits and the resulting debt continue to grow due to political pressures and dependency on government programs. In order for Congress to be able to consistently make the very tough decisions necessary to sustain fiscal responsibility over the long term, Congress must have an external pressure to force it to do so. The most realistic chance we have today to enact this type of institutional reform is through a balanced budget amendment to our Constitution.

Many Members of Congress have introduced balanced budget amendments in this Congress. I introduced two versions on the first day of the 112th Congress. H.J. Res. 2 is the exact text that passed the House in 1995 and failed in the Senate by one vote. This amendment requires that total annual outlays not exceed total annual receipts. It also requires a three-fifths majority to raise the debt limit, and, in addition, this legislation has limited exceptions for times of war.

H.J. Res. 1, which I also introduced, goes much further. In addition to the provisions of H.J. Res. 2, it requires a two-thirds majority to raise taxes and imposes an annual spending cap that prohibits spending from exceeding 18 percent of GDP.

In the United States Senate, 47 Republican Senators have cosponsored a balanced budget amendment, which is a strong sign that the Senate is ready to engage in debate on this subject.

Our extraordinary fiscal crisis demands an extraordinary solution. So we simply cannot afford to succumb to political posturing on this issue at a point in time so critical to our Nation's future. We must rise above that and move forward with a strategy that includes legislation that will get at least 290 bipartisan votes on the House floor.

So as we consider a balanced budget amendment, I encourage the Members of this body on both sides of the aisle to devote our effort to passing this strongest balanced budget amendment that can garner two-thirds of the House of Representatives.

We are at a crossroads in America. We can make the tough choices and control spending paving the way for a return to surpluses and ultimately paying down the national debt, or we can allow big spenders to lead us further down the road of chronic deficits and leave our children and grandchildren saddled with debt that is not our own.

The choice is ours. The stakes are high. Failure is not an option.

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