Lipinski Votes for Balanced Budget Amendment to Restore Fiscal Discipline in Washington and Promote Job Growth

Today, Congressman Dan Lipinski (IL-3) voted for H. J. Res. 2 to amend the Constitution to require the federal budget to be balanced. This legislation would force Washington to bite the bullet and restore fiscal discipline before the national debt reaches completely unsustainable levels that drastically reduce economic growth and do grave damage to the already struggling middle class. Unfortunately, the bill did not receive the two-thirds vote necessary for passage.

“A balanced budget is critical to restoring our economic leadership, promoting job growth, and assuring a bright future for the American people,” Rep. Lipinski said. “Yet year after year, the budget deficits continue, with no end in sight. This Balanced Budget Amendment will force Washington to make the tough but necessary decisions it has been avoiding for years. Failure to rein in the national debt will inevitably lead to an economic crisis that does grave harm to our country. We had a balanced budget as recently as 2001. There is no reason we cannot have one again.”

H. J. Res. 2 does not dictate how the federal budget shall be brought into balance, only that it must be balanced. Nor does it have any detrimental impact on programs funded through trust funds such as Social Security or road funding. In order for the amendment to take effect, it must receive a two-thirds majority vote in both the House and Senate and then be ratified by three-fourths of the states. At the earliest, the amendment would take effect in 2017, providing a reasonable adjustment period and allowing the economy and tax revenues time to recover.

The amendment also sensibly ensures that the government’s hands are not tied in the event of an emergency by allowing Congress to temporarily override the requirement that the budget be balanced with a three-fifths vote. In the event that the country is engaged in a military conflict, the requirement could also be waived provided a majority in Congress designates that the conflict causes “an imminent and serious military threat to national security.”

In June, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that the surging national debt could damage economic growth to such an extent that the economy would be almost one-fifth smaller in 2035 than would be the case otherwise.

“The federal government cannot forever live beyond its means, any more than any household or business,” Rep. Lipinski said. “We face a choice. We can deal with this reality now, while the problem is still manageable and we are able to make carefully considered decisions about the size of government. Or we can stick our heads in the sand and pretend the impossible is possible, in which case we will effectively be allowing financial markets to one day dictate terms to us, as they are doing right now in Europe. I voted for the Balanced Budget Amendment because I believe we need to face facts and take action now, before it is too late.”

(November 18, 2011)