Time to pass a balanced budget amendment
Orrin Hatch | Posted: Sunday, December 11, 2011 12:04 am
Our nation is now over $15 trillion in debt. This is forcing a historic debate about the proper size and scope of our government. This debate is an enduring one in our great Republic. The people of Utah and people across the country are demanding dramatic action.
There is only one answer to our spending-fueled debt crisis and that is a constitutional balanced budget amendment that would put a straightjacket on our nation's addiction to spending money we simply do not have.
In 1997, a balanced budget amendment I put forward came one vote short of the necessary two-thirds votes to pass the Senate. Think where we'd be if we'd succeeded and sent this constitutional amendment to the people for ratification.
This week, the Senate will once again consider a balanced budget amendment I authored to make sure we never face this level of debt again. It will be a divisive debate, because those who stand against this constitutional amendment want to grow government, encroach on liberty, and expand our debt to levels we simply cannot sustain.
Backed by 47 United States Senators, this constitutional amendment makes sense. It requires Washington to balance its budget every year like Utah families do, ensures that any tax increase only occurs with supermajority approval in Congress, limits Congress' ability to raise the debt ceiling, and caps spending at 18 percent of our nation's economy.
Opponents say a balanced budget amendment is unnecessary and that Congress should make the tough fiscal decisions to reduce deficits and rein in our debt.
But history is a stark reminder that without a constitutional amendment that simply will not happen. Congress simply lacks the political will to make the tough decisions necessary to get our fiscal house in order. In fact, every grand compromise over the past three decades to tackle our debt has been undone almost immediately after being enacted by Congress, with massive spending increases being forced onto taxpayers almost as soon as the ink dried.
The real truth is that opponents don't want to let the American people decide how they want their government to function. The American people want a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution, but Congress continues to deny them the opportunity to debate and ratify such an amendment. I suspect this is because they don't want to adhere to the fiscal discipline they know the American people want.
We are at a true crossroads as a nation -- the fiscal path we take today will define the future we leave for our children and grandchildren. It is time we pass a balanced budget amendment so that the American people can decide whether to impose fiscal restraint on Congress, and help define the economic reality we want to face as a nation. Utahns deserve an opportunity to vote on the amendment, and I'm going to continue to do everything I can to make sure Congress gives them one.
• Orrin Hatch is Utah's senior U.S. senator.
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