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Public Statements

Pass the Balanced Budget Amendment

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. LANCE. Mr. Speaker, as of November 14, 2011, the United States national debt is $14.973 trillion, according to the Department of the Treasury. With pending security auctions this month, it is inevitable that the national debt will reach the unprecedented level of $15 trillion in the coming weeks. When the national debt reaches $15 trillion, it means the U.S. debt-to-GDP ratio will reach 99.7 percent, and our debt will equal $47,900 for every living American.

Since President Obama took office in 2009, the debt has gone up by $4.3 trillion. In the last 50 years, the Federal Government has only managed to balance its budget five times, most recently with President Clinton, a Democrat, and Republican control of the United States House of Representatives and Senate.

Washington now borrows approximately 40 percent of every dollar it spends. Foreign investors hold half of our Nation's public debt and one-third of overall debt, not only from China, but from Japan, Great Britain, Saudi Arabia, and other places as well.

Admiral Mullen, the recently retired chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has rightly called the national debt ``the single biggest threat to our national security.''

While we have made significant strides in reducing the cost of government over the last few months, much more needs to be done. The primary focus of this Congress and our new leadership has been to restore fiscal sanity and fiscal restraint to the Federal Government. We must remember that the money in the Treasury is not our money but it is the people's money, and we are charged with being good stewards of that money.

There is only one way to ensure that future Congresses and Presidents, regardless of party, are unable to return to the reckless, out-of-control spending of the past, and that is to pass a balanced budget amendment to the United States Constitution. This week, Congress will vote on a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution for the first time in 16 years.

In 1995, following passage by the House of Representatives, the United States Senate came within one vote of sending a version of the balanced budget amendment to the States for ratification. Since then, our total national debt has almost tripled. Today's proposal is nearly identical with the one that passed the House of Representatives with 72 Democratic votes in 1995.

Amending our Constitution should not be taken lightly. I will support the balanced budget amendment because I believe it is the right thing to do to help get our Nation's fiscal house in order. I would have preferred that the balanced budget amendment include a spending cap, but we need Democratic Members to achieve the necessary two-thirds majority required for a constitutional amendment to be sent to the States for ratification. That is why the amendment we will be considering almost mirrors the 1995 text.

Before coming to Congress, I served in the New Jersey State Legislature, where I successfully sought reforms to ensure that our State government was responsible with the people's money. In 2008, the people of New Jersey passed by State constitutional amendment to require voter approval for all issuance of State borrowing. I am proud to be able to do my part here in Washington as well. Most States, including New Jersey, are required to balance their State budgets. If the Federal Government continues to spend what it does not have, the balanced budget amendment would provide a much needed safeguard to restrict future spending.

As someone who tries to be a student of American history, I know that a balanced budget amendment is not a new idea. Thomas Jefferson was a strong proponent of the idea. He said: ``I wish it were possible to obtain a single amendment to the Constitution. I would be willing to depend on that alone for the reduction of the administration of our government.'' He was referring to a balanced budget amendment. Those were wise words when spoken, and they are wise words today.

Passing a balanced budget amendment would also help move us closer to much needed economic certainty that our Nation desperately needs to boost the economy and help create jobs.

When I was a boy and a young man, the fundamental issue confronting the Nation was the threat of the Soviet Union and international communism, the focus of evil in the modern world, as President Reagan said.

The fundamental issue confronting the Nation in the 21st century is fiscal responsibility. Will our children live in a diminished America? Will the promise of America that each generation does better than the generation before it continue to exist? Will we continue to lead the world, or will leadership pass to China or India or to some other place?

This is the great issue confronting the people of the United States, and it is the great issue confronting us here in Congress. Let us get our fiscal house in order. Let's pass a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

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