Issue Profile: Sen. Mike Lee’s (R-UT) BBA
The final segment in our Member of the Week profile is to highlight an issue close to the Senator. This week we will highlight Sen. Lee’s Balanced Budget Amendment.
President Obama has said that Congress doesn’t need a constitutional amendment to do its job, but history shows that is certainly not the case. Unless we bind our government – via a constitutional amendment – to limit their spending, government spending will continue to grow. As Sen. Lee says:
“I’ve come to believe it’s going to be difficult or impossible to get back to constitutional spending until we stop giving Congress unlimited money from which to draw.”
This is why the Senator introduced a balanced budget amendment almost as soon as he was sworn in. His proposal would “require a balanced budget every fiscal year; limit federal spending to 18 percent of gross domestic product; and require a two-thirds vote in Congress to increase taxes, raise the debt limit or run a specific deficit.”
The government currently spends significantly more than it takes in, and it has gotten out of hand. Even with newly-elected conservative members like Sen. Lee fighting to reduce spending, it is difficult. That is because every special interest immediately throws a fit at the first sign the government gravy train may slow. It becomes impossible to cut spending without someone, somewhere saying “you must hate me.” The handouts never end because too many in Congress are part of a Washington Establishment that would rather give handouts than upset that status quo. As Sen. Lee describes it:
“Congress enjoys spending a lot of money. They get a lot of praise when they spend; they tend to get criticized when they cut. They like to feel like they’re doing something good. It’s really fun to sort of play Santa Claus, to give people things that they want. I’m not even talking about wasteful spending here. I’m talking about spending on endeavors that can fairly be described as good causes. But it becomes addictive.”
We can’t allow our government to continue spending as it does. We’re heading down a path to ruin. If we don’t make the necessary choices now, we’ll have a much harder time making those decisions when we fall into the same hole as Greece. Sen. Lee explained it this way:
“Delaying the inevitable only increases the severity of the cuts to important programs.”
Even if Congress were to set spending levels, without a binding Constitutional amendment, future Congresses can just ignore or repeal those initiatives. In the 90’s, when Republicans were in control of Congress, they lived by a de-facto balanced budget, but when their control was diminished – over time – the thrift ended. This is why the task of the super committee is really trivial. There’s no binding agreement that future Congress’ will abide by. In 2013, when the next Congress is sworn in, if they don’t approve of some of the changes that the super committee finds, they can just vote to ignore them. Again, from Sen. Lee:
“Eventually Congress is just going to repeal those,” he said. “That’s why we need an amendment because that’s the only way we can bind future Congresses.”
Indeed, and Sen. Lee’s balanced budget amendment is a great way to do so.