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Public Statements

Proposing a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. JACKSON of Illinois. I thank the gentleman for yielding.

Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong opposition to H.J. Res. 2, the balanced budget amendment. We do need to responsibly reduce our budget deficits and debt, but the best way to do that is by investing, building, and growing our economy, or through balanced economic growth, not a balanced budget amendment.

What is the most important question to be raised with respect to the BBA? We have serious gaps in our society that need to be narrowed. Economic gaps between the rich and the poor--ask the 99 percent. Social gaps between racial minorities and the majority population. Gender gaps--woman earn 76 cents for the dollar of what men earn. Generational gaps--will Social Security be there for the next generation? Infrastructure gaps--upgrades to roads, bridges, ports, levees, water and sewer systems, high-speed rail, airports and more in order to remain competitive in the world marketplace.

So the most important question, Mr. Speaker, is this: How does the BBA narrow these economic, social, gender, generational, and infrastructure gaps? It won't. It simply exacerbates them. The BBA will permanently establish the United States as a separate and unequal society. The BBA will balance the Federal budget on the backs of the poor, the working class, and the middle class.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and Citizens for Tax Justice say that the BBA would damage our economy by making recessions deeper and more frequent; heighten the risk of default and jeopardize the full faith and credit of the U.S. Government; lead to reductions in needed investments for the future; and favor wealthy Americans over middle and low-income Americans by making it far more difficult to raise revenues and easier to cut programs. And it would weaken the principle of majority rule.

Before this Congress affirms a balanced budget amendment, we need to consider our future--not just the future of America's debt, but America's future. Do we want a future that is bright with promise; a future with innovation; a future with the best schools, the brightest students, and the strongest and healthiest workers? Do we want to continue to lead in the world? My answer is yes.

Mr. Speaker, I respectfully urge my colleagues to vote ``no'' on this irresponsible and shortsighted amendment.


Mr. JACKSON of Illinois. Is the gentleman aware that under such a scenario, a budget crisis in which a default becomes a more threat is more likely because the limits placed on the fluidity of the debt ceiling--


Mr. JACKSON of Illinois. I thank the gentleman. My question is of the chairman as well.

Under such a scenario where a three-fifths vote of the House would be permitted to raise the debt limit, a budget crisis in which a default becomes a more threat is obviously more likely. And because of the limits placed on the fluidity of the debt ceiling, that default becomes more likely to occur.

Is it the gentleman's opinion that a small minority within the Congress could indeed hold the entire Nation hostage to such a vote?


Mr. JACKSON of Illinois. May I reclaim the time?

Mr. Chairman, in the event that Congress fails to act, obviously under this amendment the courts would be empowered to provide remedial orders for when Congress failed to provide a balanced budget. The decisions would then force the courts to be political in nature.

Is it the gentleman's opinion that the judicial branch and that members of the court are in a better position to make judgements about congressional budgets and about the Nation's budgets than Members of Congress?


Mr. JACKSON of Illinois. I thank the gentleman, the distinguished ranking member, and I thank the chairman for his response, but I want to raise a question with Mr. Nadler, a distinguished constitutionalist.

The courts could mandate, therefore, if Congress failed to pass a balanced budget, it could mandate a government shutdown once revenue has been expended; is that correct?


Mr. JACKSON of Illinois. Mr. Chairman, what is it that qualifies a Federal judge to make a decision about the Federal budget process?


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