PROPOSING A BALANCED BUDGET AMENDMENT TO THE CONSTITUTION

April 12, 2018
Floor Statements

Mr. SCOTT of Virginia. Mr. Speaker, I rise in opposition to H.J. Res. 2. 

   We often get distracted by debating the title of a proposed constitutional amendment without getting into serious discussion about whether or not the specific provisions will actually help balance the budget. 

   If we are ever going to balance the budget, the fact is it is going to require Members to cast some tough votes, and many of these votes will be career-ending votes, and a constitutional amendment calling itself the

   balanced budget amendment cannot change that reality. 

   Meaningful deficit reduction is politically difficult, and it is ironic that the Republican majority seems suddenly concerned about the deficit and balancing the budget. They must have forgotten that just 4 months ago they voted for a $1.5 trillion tax scam that gave massive handouts to big corporations and the wealthiest 1 percent. 

   They repeatedly claimed that these tax cuts would pay for themselves, but last week the Congressional Budget Office told the truth, estimating that their tax scam will add almost $2 trillion to our national debt. 

   Mr. Speaker, one of the most consequential votes I cast early in my career was the 1993 Clinton budget. That budget included tax increases and spending cuts, many of which were very unpopular at the time, but it was the fiscally responsible thing to do. Not one Republican voted for the 1993 Clinton budget. 

   Needless to say, the 1993 budget was a tough vote, but it helped create over 20 million jobs, the stock market more than tripled, it led to the first balanced budget in a generation, and, by the end of the Clinton administration, it included projected surpluses large enough to have paid off the entire national debt held by the public by 2008. 

   But it also contributed to 50 House Democrats losing their seats in the next election. 

   As soon as the Republicans took control of the Federal Government in 2001 with the White House, House, and Senate, they passed massive tax cuts, not paying for them; fought two wars, didn't pay for it; passed a prescription drug benefit, didn't pay for it. So by 2008, instead of zero national debt held by the public, the debt was $5.8 trillion. 

   So now we have the balanced budget amendment, and the problem is that the balanced budget amendment will not balance the budget. 

   The fact is that the major provision in this legislation is the requirement that if a budget is unbalanced, it requires a three-fifths vote, and the fact is that this proposal will actually make it virtually impossible to ever pass a fiscally tough deficit reduction plan similar to the 1993 Clinton budget. 

   That budget wasn't balanced in the first year, and, under this proposed amendment, instead of a simple majority, it would require a three-fifths supermajority in the House and the Senate. 

   The fact is, it should be obvious that any tough deficit reduction plan will be unbalanced in the first year, and so it will be harder to pass by requiring a three-fifths supermajority than a simple majority. 

   The question is: Will that supermajority make it more likely that we would end up with a fiscally responsible budget or a fiscally irresponsible budget? 

   Obviously, it is more likely that we would pass a fiscally irresponsible Christmas tree budget where every Member gets a present under the tree than it would be to get enough career-ending votes to meet the three-fifths requirement under this legislation. 

   And note that this amendment places no limit on how far out of balance the budget can be once you get to three-fifths. 

   Mr. Speaker, we shouldn't be distracted by the resolution's misleading title. Balancing the budget will require tough votes, not constitutional amendments. My colleagues must seriously consider whether the resolution's actual provisions will help or hurt. 

   It is obvious it would make it virtually impossible to pass any kind of balanced budget or responsible budget; therefore, Mr. Speaker, I ask my colleagues to oppose this legislation.