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Balanced Budget Amendment

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. FRANKS of Arizona. Mr. Speaker, I would also like to take this moment to just thank God that Gabby Giffords has returned to this floor. You know, it so happens that just a few feet from here was the last time I had seen Gabby, when she left the floor prior to this tragic attack on her.

It just occurs to me that once in a while in this life we find an example where tragedy is transcended by the human spirit and triumph and the grace of God, and this is one of those days. I just congratulate her with everything in me that she has come back. She has the prayers of the entire delegation, and I know the entire Congress, as she goes forward to complete recovery.

We are all very, very grateful today. This is a wonderful celebration for every Member of this Congress. It is a celebration for just the cause of this Republic, because we believe that everyone has the right to have the freedom of speech and to peaceably assemble, and this is what she was doing when she was attacked. For her to come back this way as she has is a triumph of the first magnitude, and we are all so very, very proud of her, and welcome her back with all of our hearts.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I have another subject tonight that I want to talk about, and that is the recent challenges that we have faced over the debt limit raising and the effort on the part of many of us to place a balanced budget into the bill that went across to the Senate that would have required a balanced budget to be in our Constitution, because, Mr. Speaker, some of us believe that it is the only way that we are going to finally, in this country, deal with the challenges of deficit spending and with the burgeoning debt that threatens to crush this country in a way that no military power has ever been able to do.

Mr. Speaker, some of us have talked about this difficult problem for a very long time, and it seems that over and over again history repeats itself, and we never really deal with it like we should.

But this time, Mr. Speaker, we have placed something before the American people that I think they are going to hang on to, and I believe that there is great hope in the coming months that we will continue to strive for this balanced budget amendment, and I hope that the people of America are paying attention because we cannot repeal the laws of mathematics. This challenge will damage this country in the most profound way if we don't deal with it while we can.

Mr. Speaker, let me just say this: That all financial budgets will eventually balance, that's a fact. No individual, no family, no business, and no government can indefinitely continue to spend more money than they take in without someone having to make up the difference, Mr. Speaker, and that includes the budget of the United States Government.

Neither Mr. Obama nor congressional Democrats can repeal this law of mathematics. The Federal budget of the United States Government will eventually balance, as all of them do, whether it's a person or a government or a business, when they continue to spend money that they don't have, someone, sooner or later, has to make up the difference. The question with our Federal budget is whether the White House and those of us in this body will balance this budget ourselves by wise policy or national bankruptcy and financial ruin will do it for us.

From the day Barack Obama has walked into the White House he has, with breathtaking arrogance, Mr. Speaker, absolutely ignored economic and financial reality. It took America the first 216 years of its existence to accumulate the debt that Barack Obama has accumulated in the short 2 1/2 -year span of his presidency.

During this short time in office he has increased our Federal debt by nearly $4 trillion, Mr. Speaker. And just to put that nearly $4 trillion in new debt in perspective, let me just put it this way. If all of a sudden a wave of responsibility swept through this Chamber and we stopped all deficit spending and began to pay installments of $1 million per day to pay down the nearly $4 trillion debt that Barack Obama has created in just 2 1/2 years, it would take us more than 10,000 years to pay off just Mr. Obama's accumulated debt in 2 1/2 years. It would take us more than 10,000 years, Mr. Speaker, to do that if we paid it off in a million dollars a day, and that's if we don't have to pay one dime in interest in the process.

But you see, Mr. Speaker, we are not paying Mr. Obama's debt down at $1 million per day; we are going deeper into debt, more than 4,000 times that much every day, and that's under Mr. Obama's own projected deficit and deficit projections. And then when speaking of the effort to reduce the deficit, the President has the hubris to tell conservative Republicans to take a balanced approach and to eat our peas.

Well, Mr. Speaker, if there's anything more catastrophically out of balance in our Federal budget it is the arrogance to competency ratio of this White House. We have watched as President Obama ran up a trillion-dollar deficit for the first time in history and then broke that record the very next year, and then say that we would have, according to his own projections, a trillion dollar-plus deficit for "years to come.''

We have watched as the Obama administration promised that if we would just allow them to spend $800 million on their stimulus package, the economy would rebound and unemployment would never reach 8 percent. Well, of course, that didn't happen, and then we watched this administration bring us ObamaCare, or the health care takeover by government.

And, Mr. Speaker, let me just suggest to you that at the time of that debate there was a lot of discussion over what private employers would do to their own insurance plans in the face of this government takeover of health care. Some people thought well, 5 percent, maybe 10 percent of the health care plans in the private sector would be dropped by corporations, would be dropped by employers.

But, Mr. Speaker, that projection is a little bit further off than we thought. The polled people that have answered the question of whether or not they would drop their health care plans, being employers, they have said that as many as half of them would do that now. Mr. Speaker, the reason I mention that is because if that's true, the cost of doing that, the cost of absorbing that to the Federal Government will be another $2 trillion on top of the trillion dollars that was already in the bill. So ObamaCare itself could cost us $3 trillion and, Mr. Speaker, that's just in the next 10 years.

So I would just say to you, Mr. Speaker, this administration has really done for deficits and debt what Stonehenge did for rocks. There is no one that has pressed this deficit spending more than the Obama administration. Mr. Speaker, the people have awakened, and they are tired of Mr. Obama telling them that 2 plus 2 equals 13.

So as we now find ourselves raising this debt ceiling yet again, in the process, some of us as conservative Republicans wanted so badly to give the American people and the States of this Nation the historic opportunity to adopt a balanced budget amendment to our Constitution to put this country back on the track of fiscal sanity once again.

So we placed a balanced budget amendment requirement in two separate pieces of legislation and passed them through this body and sent them over to the Senate only to have Mr. Obama and Senate Democrats refuse to even allow them to come up for a vote, either one of them. They simply refused to vote on it.

In both instances, Mr. Speaker, President Obama's contributions to the process were threats to veto both plans sight unseen.

Mr. Speaker, I wish I could just get this one question answered, if nothing else that they would answer, I just wish the administration would answer this one question: What is it, what is it that the President and Democrats find so radical about a balanced budget amendment?

This is something that 49 States have and every family in America has to have sooner or later, a simple balanced budget amendment that says we cannot go into debt in an infinite way that threatens not only our children's future--you know, we used to talk about how this threatened our children's future, Mr. Speaker, and I will tell you, being the father of two little twins that are going to have their third birthday before long, that has great pull in my soul, that I don't want to see this crushing debt placed on their shoulders.

But I would say to you, Mr. Speaker, that now we are starting to face a challenge that is going to come in this generation and this time, and it may not be so far off. Greece has set an example for the world as to what can happen when people simply don't pay attention to their fiscal challenges.

But the failure of both, and the failure of cooperation and the failure of leadership from Democrats on this issue, has been baffling to me, Mr. Speaker. Unbelievably, it has been 822 days since Senate Democrats proposed, not passed, but merely even proposed a budget. An individual practicing such irresponsibility, living without a budget while paying for everything with borrowed money, would meet certain financial ruin. Why do we believe our Nation will fare any better under the same preposterous policy?

Now Mr. Obama and the Democrats have falsely said that the balanced budget amendment is a Republican plan to destroy Social Security and Medicare. What a false, terrible, despicable thing to say. The truth is the balanced budget amendment is the only honest chance of reforming and saving those programs and our country from bankruptcy and economic failure in the future, Mr. Speaker.

And throughout this process, Mr. Obama and the liberal media have sought to force tax increases upon the people and the job creators of this Nation by suggesting that Republicans were not willing to address the revenue side of this equation. That isn't true either, Mr. Speaker.

Just because Republicans are not willing to increase job-killing tax rates in this country doesn't mean we don't understand the revenue side of this equation. We just know that increasing the rate of taxes will decrease the productivity of this Nation and we will ultimately decrease the revenue that comes into this government.

It is the economic equivalent of putting dirt in ice cream. It is a disastrous recipe to embrace in the name of balance. But I hear it over and over again--balance, balance. There is nothing more balanced, Mr. Speaker, than a balanced budget amendment to our Constitution.

History and experience has demonstrated time and again that the best way to increase the amount of revenue coming in to this government is to get out of the way and let the people and the private sector increase the number of quality jobs for the American people. This has always resulted in the increased productivity and the broadening of the tax base in this amazing Nation.

Mr. Speaker, we don't need higher taxes, we need more jobs and more taxpayers. Mr. Obama and the Democrats have constantly said that we need to take, again, this "balanced'' approach, which is a code for increased taxes. But, Mr. Speaker, again, the truly balanced approach to this problem is a balanced budget to the Constitution, and by passing a balanced budget amendment we can restore hope and confidence in capital markets inside the United States and all over the world because they will see that in the long run America is going to make it.

It may take the States 6 or 7 years to fully ratify this Constitutional amendment to balance the budget. But we owe it to the States and to the people to give them this chance to save their Nation. In the meantime, we can work here to expand the economy and balance this budget so when the amendment finally is ratified, we will all be ready to go forward as a nation to embrace greater days than we have ever seen. And we have a rare opportunity, Mr. Speaker, that may never come again of doing something truly historic that will save this Nation and its people from economic ruin.

This battle is not over. The American people are beginning to realize that they are already paying a very high price for electing Barack Obama to the presidency. If they make the profound error of reelecting him in the next election, our families and all Americans will face an economic, a constitutional and a national security crisis that will dwarf the challenges that we face in these moments. If Democrats and the President are not willing to give the people this chance by helping Republicans pass a balanced budget amendment in the Congress, the resulting consequences will be theirs alone, Mr. Speaker, and I believe the people will hold them accountable for whatever financial disaster may follow.

Now long ago, Mr. Speaker, Thomas Jefferson said, "I wish it were possible to obtain a single amendment to our Constitution. I would be willing to depend on that alone for the reduction of the administration of our government; I mean an additional article taking from the Federal Government the power of borrowing.''

He said that right after the Constitution itself had been finished. He just wanted one more amendment. And, unfortunately, as you know, he turned out to be right. But his contemporaries failed to listen to him about the balanced budget amendment.

I will just say to you, Mr. Speaker, it is not too late for those of us in these moments to listen to his words. I believe the American people are listening today, and I believe that they call upon their leaders now to do something truly historic and pass a balanced budget amendment to the United States Constitution in the days ahead. And God help us to do it, Mr. Speaker.

Let me just say, Mr. Speaker, that I know that this has been a challenging week, and I believe our leadership on the Republican side of this House has done everything possible to try to work with the President and to work with the majority leader of the U.S. Senate. And they have had an extremely significant challenge. We sent twice to the other body bills that would have raised the debt limit but in the process also have required a balanced budget amendment to be inserted into the Constitution, or at least sent to the people so that they could decide. But this is the one thing that they took from us in the process. And, Mr. Speaker, I truly believe that we had a golden opportunity to truly change the way that America goes forward, and we failed that opportunity. But I would also say that I think there is still hope to do it in the next few months. Part of the equation that we have under this legislation is to require a balanced budget amendment vote in both this Chamber, in the House of Representatives, and in the U.S. Senate. And I hope so much that we do that while we can and that the people of this country will let their Representatives and Senators know that they are tired of this deficit spending and tired of this fiscal irresponsibility and saying, in our lifetime, we will have a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution, and we will make sure that our children can walk in the light of freedom and economic hope as we have. I hope that happens, Mr. Speaker.


Mr. FRANKS of Arizona. I thank the Speaker, and I understand that the gentleman from Illinois would like me to yield to him for a question.

Mr. JACKSON of Illinois. I thank the gentleman for yielding to me for a question, but first, I just want to indicate to Mr. Duncan's son that we're going to do everything we can to get him a baseball even if his dad is a little slow this month.

My question is about the balanced budget amendment, if the gentleman from Arizona would share with us how that would work. I have heard a number of Members come down and talk about the idea that we are going to vote on it, that it needs to happen. But at least as I understand it, the interpreter of the Constitution, obviously, would be the Federal courts in that if Congress were unable to achieve a balanced budget in any fiscal year, a lawsuit could be brought under the balanced budget amendment that would throw the process into the Federal judiciary, allowing Federal judges then to determine what constitutes balance or imbalance.

If the gentleman would take some time to share with us how, from his perspective, that would work.

Mr. FRANKS of Arizona. I thank the gentleman, and I'll take a shot at that.

First of all, as the gentleman knows, there are many different kinds of balanced budget amendments that have been proposed. One of the commonalities of most of those is that they require that our projected spending meet our projected revenues, what we believe is going to be our receipts for the coming year. Now, it is true, as in all areas of the Constitution, that the Federal courts have exhibited great arrogance in coming into the area of legislation and trying to legislate from the bench by dealing with these issues under the pretense of considering the constitutionality of these issues. The good news with a balanced budget amendment is that there would be obvious language there that the courts would have before them that simply says that the Congress is required by the Constitution to balance our budget so that we don't deficit-spend.

It is true that we are required in this body to have equal protection, for instance. We can't say that this one group deserves one protection and that this one group doesn't. Every once in a while, the Supreme Court injects themselves into that debate like they did in Roe vs. Wade, let's say. They simply said, when it comes to protecting the unborn, that they weren't persons under the Constitution and that we not only didn't have to protect them but that we couldn't protect them. That was arrogance beyond words. This is every time across the history of humanity. When the German High Tribunal injected itself even into the tragedy of the German system, they said that the German was "untermenschen,'' subhuman, and they took away their personhood; and the tragedy that followed is still one of the darkest stains that I know of on the human soul.

So, yes, it is possible that the courts could try to intervene in this process and try to distort it, but ultimately, the "balanced budget amendment'' concept is very simple. It would say, like Thomas Jefferson said, that the Federal Government simply would take from them the power of borrowing.

Now, there was a balanced budget amendment that came before this floor about 15 years ago, and it received over 300 votes on the floor, many of them Democrat votes. I don't know how the gentleman from Illinois voted on that. That's not a question. I don't know. Yet that particular balanced budget amendment simply said that you could not deficit-spend without a super majority of votes that declared that there was either an emergency in dealing with our national security or that there was an act of war on the table to where we were having to do things to make sure that we protected the national security of this country, which is priority one.

I'll let the gentleman ask me one more question, and then I'm going to yield to these other folks. I would just say this: Oftentimes, my friends on the Democrat side of the aisle say that a balanced budget amendment will require us to cut Medicare and cut Social Security and all of these things, and that presupposes that a balanced budget amendment will bring in less revenue to this government because of its constraints. First of all, when we deficit-spend, we're really just throwing the log up the trail. We're really not doing anyone any good in the long run because these programs become unsustainable over time.

Here's the thing that I wish I could express and wish that my Democrat friends would do their own research on and ascertain whether they think it's true empirically in history, which is: When we have a balanced budget amendment, when people believe that they can project forward and know that this government is going to be secure, when they believe that we're not going to deficit-spend and take a lot of the capital out of the private markets and that we're not going to put burdens on the interest rates, one thing happens very clearly--it drags more people off the sidelines; it drags more entrepreneurs into the system; it causes more people to put their capital at risk; it causes more people to put their lives and endeavors into an enterprise that results in productivity.

The fundamentals of all economy is productivity, productivity, productivity, productivity. When we produce as a Nation, we raise the number of taxpayers, not the rate of taxes. We raise the number of taxpayers, and money from all corners comes into the coffers. That has happened many times. Even when we decrease taxes, that happens.

So I am convinced that a balanced budget amendment is the surest way, not only to have the additional moneys necessary to make sure that we have all of the constitutional mandated and allowed activities of this Federal Government to do, including that it gives us more money for things like Medicare and that it gives us more money for things like Social Security, but to also put us on a fiscal path to security so that those programs won't eventually come into question and even bankruptcy.

With that, I'd let the gentleman ask one more question.

Mr. JACKSON of Illinois. I thank the gentleman for yielding and for allowing me to ask him one final question.

Is there any concern that a balanced budget amendment would be legalizing the legislative process and politicizing the judiciary?

What I mean by that is all Federal judges are, obviously, appointed by the President of the United States, and they go through a process in the Senate. Is there any concern that those Federal judges could be queried over what programs they support and what programs they don't support, and therefore, it would stand as a basis for their own, if you will, politicizing of the judicial process, which presently is not involved in the political process? Then, if you don't mind sharing with us, what are the ramifications?

Mr. FRANKS of Arizona. I thank the gentleman.

There are always these times when Democrats and Republicans can find common ground, and I think this is one of those moments when I take the gentleman's point and believe that he has a very good point.

The truth is, as of late, in the last several

decades, the courts have politicized, and they have brought into sort of the legalization process a lot of the activities that belong in this Chamber. I am convinced that, yes, there is every possibility that they may try to do that with a balanced budget amendment of the Constitution or with any other element of the Constitution because that's where things are headed.

The answer to that is not to say, well then, we're just going to give up the Constitution to the judges. The answer is for us to fight back and say that they are not going to politicize our Constitution, that they are there to apply the Constitution as written, not to have a Constitutional Convention every time they sit down to a case where they rewrite the Constitution like they did with Roe vs. Wade, like they did with the Kelo case. The judges simply should interpret the law as written and not try to do our job as legislators.

It is a serious problem, I would say to the gentleman, that concerns me greatly, but I will say this: We are seeing judges do these things anyway in States. Apart from a balanced budget amendment, they're saying, You're not equally applying your appropriations in a particular area, and we hereby order you to appropriate funds to this or that particular issue or cause or department. So I say to the gentleman that there is nothing that frightens me more than turning this entire Constitution, this entire Republic, over to an unelected judicial oligarchy. It's the most dangerous thing that we face because it abrogates the Constitution. I would say this President has put people in the courts who have no fealty or no respect for the Constitution whatsoever.

I just had a case that I've been fighting for 14 years, and it went before the courts. It should have been a 9-0 case, but it was 5-4 because these four justices were willing to say that every dollar in your pocket before you filled out a tax return was public money. Now, there was nothing constitutionally accurate about that, but they were willing to do it.

So the gentleman is correct in being afraid of judicial activism and of the judiciary injecting itself into the Constitution, but they've done that with all amendments. At least with a constitutionally balanced budget amendment, we'll have the words clearly that we have at least the ability to fight back and to say to the judges that they have no right to abrogate these words.

I hope that that makes a difference.


Mr. FRANKS of Arizona. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman from Iowa. He happens to be one of my most beloved friends in this institution, and he is a true statesman. Mr. Speaker, sometimes I think it's important for us to examine that word "statesman.'' It's often said that a politician looks to the next election whereas a statesman looks to the next generation. I so believe that that's important in this place.

We need to realize that, as the older men around here, as it were, that we need to plant shade trees under whose shade we will never sit ourselves. We need to do those things for the next generations that will really make the difference.

I want to, if I could, relate the timeless words of one of our Founding Fathers Samuel Adams. He said, "Let us contemplate our forefathers and our posterity, and resolve to maintain the rights bequeathed to us from the former for the sake of the latter. The necessity of these times, more than ever, calls for our utmost circumspection, deliberation, fortitude and perseverance.''

I think so much that those words are true, Mr. Speaker, because I truly believe that right now we are about planting trees under whose shade we will never sit ourselves.

But I truly believe that if we work hard in these next few months to pass this balanced budget amendment, that we will do great things for this country and for its people because oftentimes I find people see the balanced budget amendment as a way to constrain our ability to meet the needs of government.

Well, the fact is, Mr. Speaker, a balanced budget amendment will do several things. First of all, it will not only help government meet certain needs, it will help a lot of people no longer need government because it will expand this economy, it will help people gain jobs, it will help people become taxpayers, and as I said in my earlier comments, we don't need more tax increases, we need more taxpayers, and nothing will help this government in terms of the revenue it needs more than that.

But ultimately, a balanced budget amendment will also cause a debate in this country as to what is government's role and what is the private sector's role because oftentimes the difference between this country and many other countries is that our Constitution changed down government, and our Constitution tries to magnify the individual. And, Mr. Speaker, I just think sometimes we forget what it's all about.

I know there is a lot of sincere people on both sides of the issue. But I would just say tonight that we have a chance to move forward from this debate and realize that our eyes are open now, that we see the problem. And sometimes there is a moment in the life of every problem, Mr. Speaker, when it is big enough to be seen and still small enough to be solved. And I'm afraid that that window is closing upon all of us right now and that we have an opportunity to sow the seeds of ultimate success by putting a balanced budget amendment in our Constitution by putting it out to the States.

We can't pass a balanced budget amendment ourselves. What we can do is we can put it out to the States and say you decide. Let the people of this country decide whether we need a balanced budget amendment or not. If we will do our part, they will do theirs.

You know Fred Bastiat said many, many years ago, government is that great fiction through which everyone endeavors to live at the expense of everyone else. And it sounds real good, you know, this idea of deficit spending, this idea of socialized government sounds real good. But the truth is that while maybe free enterprise and market-driven freedom is sometimes the unequal distribution of wealth, socialism has proven time and time again across the centuries to be the equal distribution of poverty.

Nothing has dragged more poor people out of poverty for longer periods of time than freedom and free enterprise, and the balanced budget amendment will reinvigorate that in this country, and it's time that we had it, and by the grace of God I hope that we proceed.

I join with my friends on both sides of the aisle to say it's time to put this country back on track to the greatness that the Founding Fathers dreamed of so long ago and to understand on our parts that if we do what we can, that America's best days are still ahead.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.

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