Tag Archives: balanced budget amendments

Senator Pryor responds to my “Thirsty Thursday” series of emails to him concerning the Balanced Budget Amendment

I have been blogging for 10 months now and have had over 110,000 hits on my blog. Posts encouraging Senator Pryor to cut spending have been responsible for more posts than any other subject. It has got the most hits too. I am hopeful that Senator Pryor will either pay attention to the people or get voted out. Below is the email that I received today from Senator Mark Pryor:

October 24, 2011

Dear Mr. Hatcher,

Thank you for contacting me regarding a Constitutional amendment requiring a balanced federal budget. I appreciate hearing from you.

I am deeply concerned about current spending levels and our ever-growing national debt, and I believe Congress can and should balance the federal budget. As a nation, we have been living beyond our means for a long time. Balancing the budget will require both parties to work together to achieve this goal.

Amending the Constitution is a step that should never be taken lightly. A poorly drafted balanced budget amendment could prevent the federal government from being able to respond appropriately to national emergencies, cause drastic cuts to important programs, such as Social Security and Medicare, and result in an automatic tax increase. However, I remain open to considering a balanced budget amendment, and will give my full attention and thought to any balanced budget amendments the Senate considers.

In the meantime, I will continue to introduce legislation to eliminate ineffective and unnecessary programs, and use my position in Congress to further reduce wasteful spending. I appreciate hearing from you. Your input helps me make better decisions, and I will be sure to keep your specific comments in mind as I work to come up with better fiscal solutions for the American people.

Again, thank you for contacting me. I value your input. Please do not hesitate to contact me or my office regarding this or any other matter of concern to you.
Sincerely,

Mark Pryor
United States Senate

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Please Note, this is not a monitored email account. Due to the sheer volume of correspondence I receive, I ask that constituents please contact me via my website with any responses or additional concerns.

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Brummett: Congress abdicates political responsibility to make wise cuts, but we don’t need balanced budget amendment (Part 1)

Published on Jul 15, 2011 by

During his third news conference on the debt crisis, President Obama says Congress does not need a constitutional amendment to do its job, the constitution “tells us to do our job.”

_______________________

The problem with President Obama’s comments above is that he really does not see the tremendous increase in federal spending as the problem. He blames everything else!!!! He says we do not need the balanced budget amendment but uncontrolled federal spending is the reason we need it!!!

John Brummett in his article “It may get personal in debt-limit end game,” Arkansas News Bureau, July 19, 2011 noted:

The White House is quietly encouraging the Reid-McConnell talks.

Meantime, there is talk of pandering to the tea party radicals in the unwieldy House by letting them pursue referral of a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution.

Ratification would take years. If enacted, such an amendment would amount to the same abdication of political responsibility to make wise and responsible cuts in spending as has been evident in the debt-ceiling debate.

It is obvious to me that the Balanced Budget Amendment is needed because of the “abdication of political responsibility to make wise and responsible cuts in spending” that Brummett is talking about and we have all seen for decades.

The real debate in my view should be which variety of amendment should we pass. This is a series of posts I am doing on that subject. They come from Brian Darling’s excellent article, ” The House and Senate Balanced Budget Amendments: Not All Balanced Budget Amendments Are Created Equal,” Heritage Foundation, July 14, 2011. 

Abstract: Republicans in the House and Senate have announced that they will force votes on balanced budget constitutional amendments. While the Senate and House versions of the current BBA are similar, there are some important differences that Members of Congress and the American people need to understand. For example, the Senate version makes it more difficult to enact revenue-neutral tax reform, while the House version would waive its tax limitation in times of military conflict. How Congress resolves these differences could determine whether future Congresses and Presidents balance the budget without increasing taxes.

Congress is preparing for a historic debate over what role—if any—a balanced budget amendment (BBA) to the U.S. Constitution should play in relation to the United States’ statutory debt ceiling. Some conservatives in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate have demanded a vote on a balanced budget amendment. Other conservatives have gone as far as to demand passage of a BBA in the House and Senate as a precondition to passing a debt limit increase.

If the Senate and House were to pass identical versions of a BBA, the constitutional amendment would then be sent to the states for ratification.[1]

Republican leaders in the House and Senate have declared that a vote will be scheduled in both chambers on their respective versions of a BBA. The differences between the two versions are significant: Clearly, not all BBAs are created equal.

The provisions that vary between the House and Senate versions of the BBA may have dramatic policy implications for federal spending. For instance, the two versions of the BBA diverge significantly on such threshold questions as how each amendment’s provisions apply during times of “military conflict” and the number of votes required to waive the constitutional mandate that the budget be balanced during a fiscal year.

According to Roll Call, Republicans in the House and Senate have announced that they will force votes on balanced budget constitutional amendments.[2] The Senate is expected to vote the week of July 18, 2011, while the House is expected to vote on another version of the BBA during the same week.

While the Senate and House versions of the current BBA are similar, there are some important differences that Members of Congress and the American people need to understand. How Congress resolves these differences could determine whether future Congresses and Presidents balance the budget without increasing taxes.

The Senate BBA

Senator Mike Lee (R–UT) and Senator Jon Kyl (R–AZ) introduced a BBA that would cap spending as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP), require supermajority votes to increase the debt limit or raise taxes, and prohibit the judiciary from using a BBA as authority to unilaterally order tax increases to balance the budget.[3]

Senator Lee’s version of the BBA included the following three pillars:

  • Requiring a balanced budget for each fiscal year;
  • Limiting federal spending to no more than 18 percent of GDP; and
  • Requiring a supermajority vote in both Houses of Congress in order to increase taxes, raise the debt ceiling, or run a specific deficit in a particular year.[4]

This version of the BBA, Senate Joint Resolution 5 (S.J. Res. 5), departed from the Contract with America version in that prior incarnations of the BBA did not include a spending cap.

Senator Orrin Hatch (R–UT) drafted a BBA that garnered unanimous support from all 47 Republican Senators. Senator Hatch introduced this BBA, referred to as Senate Joint Resolution 10 (S.J. Res. 10), on March 31, 2011.[5]

On June 29, 2011, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R–KY) introduced an identical measure, Senate Joint Resolution 23 (S.J. Res. 23),[6] which was then read onto the Senate Calendar on June 30. The McConnell BBA contains the following provisions:

  • Section 1.Total outlays for any fiscal year shall not exceed total receipts for that fiscal year, unless two-thirds of the duly chosen and sworn Members of each House of Congress shall provide by law for a specific excess of outlays over receipts by a roll call vote.
  • Section 2.Total outlays for any fiscal year shall not exceed 18 percent of the gross domestic product of the United States for the calendar year ending before the beginning of such fiscal year, unless two-thirds of the duly chosen and sworn Members of each House of Congress shall provide by law for a specific amount in excess of such 18 percent by a roll call vote.
  • Section 3.Prior to each fiscal year, the President shall transmit to the Congress a proposed budget for the United States Government for that fiscal year in which—
    1. total outlays do not exceed total receipts; and
    2. total outlays do not exceed 18 percent of the gross domestic product of the United States for the calendar year ending before the beginning of such fiscal year.
  • Section 4.Any bill that imposes a new tax or increases the statutory rate of any tax or the aggregate amount of revenue may pass only by a two-thirds majority of the duly chosen and sworn Members of each House of Congress by a roll call vote. For the purpose of determining any increase in revenue under this section, there shall be excluded any increase resulting from the lowering of the statutory rate of any tax.
  • Section 5.The limit on the debt of the United States shall not be increased, unless three-fifths of the duly chosen and sworn Members of each House of Congress shall provide for such an increase by a roll call vote.
  • Section 6.The Congress may waive the provisions of sections 1, 2, 3, and 5 of this article for any fiscal year in which a declaration of war against a nation-state is in effect and in which a majority of the duly chosen and sworn Members of each House of Congress shall provide for a specific excess by a roll call vote.
  • Section 7.The Congress may waive the provisions of sections 1, 2, 3, and 5 of this article in any fiscal year in which the United States is engaged in a military conflict that causes an imminent and serious military threat to national security and is so declared by three-fifths of the duly chosen and sworn Members of each House of Congress by a roll call vote. Such suspension must identify and be limited to the specific excess of outlays for that fiscal year made necessary by the identified military conflict.
  • Section 8.No court of the United States or of any State shall order any increase in revenue to enforce this article.
  • Section 9.Total receipts shall include all receipts of the United States Government except those derived from borrowing. Total outlays shall include all outlays of the United States Government except those for repayment of debt principal.
  • Section 10.The Congress shall have power to enforce and implement this article by appropriate legislation, which may rely on estimates of outlays, receipts, and gross domestic product.
  • Section 11. This article shall take effect beginning with the fifth fiscal year beginning after its ratification.

The Senate is expected to commence debate on S.J. Res. 23 during the week of July 18, 2011.

Brian Darling is Senior Fellow for Government Studies in the Department of Government Studies at The Heritage Foundation.

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