March 2, 1995, was a pivotal day in the history of our country. On that day, the U.S. Senate failed by one vote to pass a balanced budget amendment to the United States Constitution. The amendment had passed the House of Representatives by the required two-thirds majority and the Senate vote was the last legislative hurdle before being sent to the states for ratification.
If Congress had listened to the American people and sent that amendment to the states for ratification, they likely would have approved it and we would not be facing the debt crisis we are today. Balancing the federal budget would be the norm, instead of the exception over the past 20 years, and we would have nothing like the annual deficits and skyrocketing debt we currently face.
In 1995, when the balanced budget amendment came within one vote of passing, the gross federal debt stood at $4.9 trillion; today it stands at over $17.5 trillion. What is particularly troubling is that today’s debts will burden future generations. This is one legacy that should not be passed on to our children and grandchildren.
Families in the sixth district understand what it means to make tough decisions each day about what they can and cannot afford and government officials should be required to exercise similar restraint when spending the hard-earned dollars of our nation’s citizens. A balanced budget amendment to the Constitution would once and for all require Congress to rein in this out-of-control behavior.
Just a few weeks ago, the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing to examine the balanced budget amendment as a constitutional solution to America’s debt. Several versions of the balanced budget amendment have been introduced, including two I introduced on the first day of the 113th Congress.
H.J. Res. 2 is nearly identical to text that passed the House in 1995. It requires that Congress not spend more than it receives in revenues. It also requires a true majority of each chamber to pass tax increases and a three-fifths majority to raise the debt limit. H.J. Res. 1, which I also introduced, goes further. In addition to the provisions of H.J. Res. 2, it requires a three-fifths majority to raise taxes and imposes an annual cap on federal spending.
It is simply not sustainable for our national debt to continue to grow at this rate. We are at a crossroads. We can make the tough choices to control spending and pave the way for a return to surpluses and paying down the national debt, or we can continue further down the road of chronic deficits, leaving future generations with crippling debt that is not of their own making. The choice is ours and the stakes are high.