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Proposing a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. PASCRELL. I thank the ranking member.

Mr. Speaker, this attempt to change the Constitution of the United States is a real disaster. We all want to make sure we balance the budgets, but to compare our household budget to the national budget is preposterous because we have different responsibilities as a Federal Government.

Alexander Hamilton, who wrote so many of the Federalist Papers--I thought we understand a great leader, a great American. I thought we understood what the responsibilities of government are.

But talking about disasters, what about natural disasters? How would a balanced budget amendment affect how the Congress looks at when there is a tornado in Joplin, a wipe-out and flooding of New Jersey, a hurricane in Florida, wildfires in Texas? The amendment requires this balanced budget amendment--which is a joke to begin with, how you named it. It doesn't balance the budget. And if the amendment ever got through, it would take 7 years to implement. We have people out of work now. But anyway, the amendment requires a supermajority for every emergency spending case of natural disasters.

Let's take my State of New Jersey. FEMA estimates that it will provide $400 million to help communities and individuals across the State recover and rebuild. Last September, we couldn't even get a majority, let alone a supermajority, to pass disaster aid unless it was offset with partisan budget cuts. Every State will have to go through that.

I want every State to know--you talk about the States. You talk about their budgets. Isn't it interesting that on January of this year, CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf wrote this: ``Amending the Constitution to require this sort of balance raises risks.'' Listen, my friends, brothers, and sisters: ``The fact that taxes fall when the economy weakens and spending and benefit programs increase''--by nature, they have to; people need help, unless we're no longer going to be a first-rate Republic--``when the economy weakens in an automatic way under existing law is an important stabilizing force for the aggregate economy.''


Mr. PASCRELL. I thank the gentleman.

``The fact that State governments need to work against these effects in their own budgets--need to take action to raise taxes or cut spending in recessions--undoes the automatic stabilizers, essentially, at the State level. Taking those away at the Federal level risks making the economy less stable, risks exacerbating the swings in business cycles.''

We did it together, Democrats and Republican, '98, '99, 2000. We did it without an amendment to the Constitution, which will undermine this institution that we so revere right here today.


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