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Washington Needs a
Balanced Budget Amendment
By U.S. Sen. John Cornyn
But achievement in this great nation doesn’t happen overnight; it requires hard work and a willingness to make sacrifices. The challenges of fiscal prudence are something many American families grapple with every day. We must finance our homes, save for college and plan for retirement. This means making difficult choices, but we’re incentivized to make them by the desire to keep the American dream alive for our children and grandchildren.
Somewhere along the way, the federal government lost sight of the importance of balancing its budget. This year, our national debt soared past $14 trillion as the federal government ran a $1.3 trillion deficit. The debt has grown by more than one-third since the beginning of President Barack Obama’s administration, and we are now borrowing more than 40 cents of every dollar we spend. Furthermore, the president has proposed a budget that would run an average annual deficit of nearly $1 trillion for every year over the next decade. This is not sustainable, and it is not acceptable.
Our burgeoning debt is not only a fiscal challenge, but also a national security dilemma. Retired Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff , called the debt “the most significant threat to our national security.” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the debt “undermines our capacity to act in our interest … and it also sends a message of weakness internationally.” Now is the time for Congress to act and pass a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution.
Washington has shown that it cannot curb its unlimited appetite to spend money we simply do not have, opting instead to borrow billions from foreign countries that may not have our best interests at heart and to pass the buck to our children and grandchildren. While placing the burden of our profligacy on future generations may be politically expedient, it strikes me as shameful and irresponsible. Washington must live within its means, and I believe a balanced-budget amendment is one way to do that.
It is certainly not a new idea, but it is an idea whose time has come. Forty-nine states have some form of a balanced-budget requirement. And the last time the Senate voted on a balanced-budget amendment, the national debt was roughly a third of what it is now and the annual deficit was less than a tenth. Unfortunately, the amendment received 66 votes — one short of the two-thirds supermajority requirement.
There are different versions of a balanced-budget amendment circulating on Capitol Hill, and I look forward to working with my colleagues on supporting a strong and meaningful amendment. I also welcome how the debate has changed in Washington. Instead of discussing which project to insert into which bill, we are working toward a solution to our fiscal crisis.
Beyond being a fiscal issue and a national security issue, Washington’s reckless spending is also a moral issue. Just as parents balance the family checkbook so that their children can enjoy the American dream, so must Congress put our fiscal house in order so that the dream may stay alive.
Republican John Cornyn represents Texas in the Senate and may be contacted through cornyn.senate.gov.