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Public Statements

Proposing a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. HOLT. Madam Speaker, the right question to ask is not, ``How can Congress create the political will necessary to balance our budget?'' The right questions to ask are, ``What is the right budget to enable a vigorous economy?'' And that is not necessarily a budget in exact numerical equality between income and outgo. And, second, ``How has America balanced its budget in the past?''

Madam Speaker, I took great personal satisfaction during my first term as a member of this body in voting for and helping to achieve America's first balanced budget in a generation. It was not easy to attain. Those members of Congress, myself included, who believe in fiscal responsibility and budgetary discipline, had to make tough choices and cast difficult votes in order to put the federal government's fiscal house in order. The White House and Congress can balance the federal budget without a constitutional amendment.

We needed two things: sufficient income and no unnecessary spending. A revenue base made balancing the budget possible. We also had a recognition that a vibrant economy produces more revenue than an economy in a recession.

That, Madam Speaker, is what is lacking today--not the political will, but the economic fundamentals. America's revenue base was decimated by the Bush tax cuts, which gave away hundreds of billions of dollars to the most fortunate Americans while doing little to help middle-class families. And America's economy has been devastated by the financial crisis, which has diminished the federal government's revenue base and required us to spend money to sustain the social safety net and to create jobs.
Madam Speaker, if America truly wants to return to the era of balanced budgets, we don't need a misguided and destructive constitutional amendment. What America needs is to invest in those things that allow and help our people to be productive--education, research, health care, and things that help the wheels of commerce turn, like banking and trading regulations, environmental protection, and freer migration of talented people. We need the wealthiest Americans and our wealthiest corporations to pay their fair share of the cost of running this nation. And we need to act with urgency and compassion to put to work the 25 million Americans who are out of work or underemployed. We need to create jobs in the short-term to stop the damage to our long-term economy.

Madam Speaker, our history of amending the Constitution has been about the enhancement of individual rights or the correction of fundamental structural flaws in the federal government. Politics--not a structural flaw--created our current deficit problem, and political compromise can fix it. We must be committed to reaching the political compromises that are necessary in order to exercise fiscal responsibility and balance budgets consistently.

Madam Speaker, a balanced budget amendment is nothing more than a fine example of political theater. We will debate this amendment for hours, but without any chance to amend it or consider any alternatives. The majority is putting the bill on the floor under a procedure normally reserved for non-controversial measures, despite the very controversial nature of this flawed constitutional amendment. It is bad policy that will not bring us any closer to solving our budget problems, and I urge my colleagues to oppose it here today.


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