Economy & Budget

Balanced Budget Amendment introduced in Senate

Balanced Budget Amendment introduced in Senate

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) is aiming to force lawmakers to spend within the means of the tax-paying public by introducing a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution that puts strict limits on the ability of Congress to run deficits and increase the national debt.

Introduction of Lee’s bill comes on the heels of House action on Wednesday to suspend the $16.4 trillion debt ceiling until May 19 rather than increasing the level, and in turn requires Congress to pass a budget by April 15 – a task that has not been accomplished in several years.

“Washington’s insatiable need to borrow and spend has put off difficult decisions and threatened the prosperity of future generations,” Lee said. “It is unconscionable and immoral. We have an obligation to correct course and put the country on a responsible path to fiscal sustainability. Families, businesses, and state and local governments are all expected to live within their means, the federal government should do the same.”

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Lee’s bill would also limit spending to 18 percent of the gross national product, and requires a two-thirds vote of Congress to run a deficit, raise taxes, or increase the debt limit.

“All past efforts of Congress to limit spending have utterly failed. None of the existing restraints – the Budget Act, spending caps, the debt limit, the sequester – have gotten spending under control, and we have $16.4 trillion of debt to prove it. Only a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution will permanently bind Congress and force both parties to live within the nation’s means. Anything less will simply maintain our dysfunctional and unsustainable status quo,” Lee said.

Although a popular idea with the public, a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution has failed past legislative attempts by Republican lawmakers.

The closest the bill has come to being law was 15 years ago, when it passed the House with bipartisan support but was defeated in the Senate by one vote.

The last time Congress voted on a balanced budget amendment was in 2011 as part of an agreement to raise the debt ceiling. It was rejected in both the House and Senate. The chances of Lee’s legislation passing in the Democratic-controlled Senate this session look equally slim.

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