There’s been so much buzz around the BBA lately, I figured I’d post what the House will be voting on in a few days so it can be read and digested, and be taken as serious as amending our constitution should. Afterword, I provide my thoughts.
Here is the text:
H.J. Res. 1
Proposing a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution of the United States.
Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled (two-thirds of each House concurring therein), That the following article is proposed as an amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which shall be valid to all intents and purposes as part of the Constitution when ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States within seven years after the date of its submission for ratification:
`Section 1. Total outlays for any fiscal year shall not exceed total receipts for that fiscal year, unless three-fifths of the whole number of each House of Congress shall provide by law for a specific excess of outlays over receipts by a rollcall vote.
`Section 2. The limit on the debt of the United States held by the public shall not be increased, unless three-fifths of the whole number of each House shall provide by law for such an increase by a rollcall 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 total outlays do not exceed total receipts.
`Section 4. No bill to increase revenue shall become law unless approved by a majority of the whole number of each House by a rollcall vote.
`Section 5. The Congress may waive the provisions of this article for any fiscal year in which a declaration of war is in effect. The provisions of this article may be waived for any fiscal year in which the United States is engaged in military conflict which causes an imminent and serious military threat to national security and is so declared by a joint resolution, adopted by a majority of the whole number of each House, which becomes law.
`Section 6. The Congress shall enforce and implement this article by appropriate legislation, which may rely on estimates of outlays and receipts.
`Section 7. 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 for those for repayment of debt principal.
`Section 8. This article shall take effect beginning with the later of the second fiscal year beginning after its ratification or the first fiscal year beginning after December 31, 2014.’.
I have never subscribed to the idea that a BBA would solve our problems with spending and debt, and would likely have very limited effects on the kind of statism that can be accomplished when the government still has all the authority to regulate and mandate, and to make someone else pay for it.
This particular version is not quite the kind of “Why not? It can’t hurt anything. Just jump on the “Cut, Cap, Balance” bandwagon like the good Republican you are and don’t worry about what’s in the bill,” kind of BBA that I envisioned when I got the “talking to” regarding my ever so charming hesitance. And it went something like:
“Everything will be ok!! Well? You don’t want any more debt, do you? And we don’t want to have to struggle with socialized medicine again. Do you? Or maybe you think we should go another decade without even bothering with a budget.”
Reading this bill, it appears that none of complaints I’ve heard or criticisms about the particulars, the what and how of spending, that’s been going on over the last decade are solved with this sorry excuse for doing something about the problem.
We haven’t had a budget for two years! It doesn’t require congress to pass a budget. There are no deadlines to be met. They could muddy the waters with continuing resolutions so badly no one will know how much they are spending.
They fudged the numbers on that ObamaCare bill and double counted revenue. I don’t see anything requiring honesty. And perhaps we should not need to, but after the kinds of dirty tricks we witnessed over ObamaCare, I think it is one of those things that should be at the top of the list.
Everything else that has been tried in order to achieve spending/debt limits has failed because congress kept invoking the override, so we must have a Balanced Budget Amendment. And so what is in this one? Check out “Section 5” and consider that we’ve been at war for the last decade. Which of the budgets for the last 10 years are we to suppose would have been limited by this if we had it in our constitution the whole time? Maybe it would have limited the one with Medicare Part D in it?? Sorry for being such a monster that I would deny old ladies living in shacks their heart medicine. What about the bailouts , porkulus and ObamaCare? Oh, they didn’t pass a budget those years… Sorry, Charlie – and would you get them anyway because we have a military conflict.
Don’t have a conflict and want socialized medicine? It’s not a problem at all. It only takes a simple majority to “approve one” and I’m sure we can find some tyrant who deserves to be shot in the face with a hellfire. And don’t even worry about that nonsense of declaring war – that’s so 1787. And when the conflict is over, it won’t really ever be over because who knows what other kinds of things will come up that are too important to neglect.
What? You don’t want [insert name of social program here] or a war and you want a balanced budget? Perhaps you just need a holiday at the lovely Federal prison* hem* resort in ANWR.
We really need to think about this, guys. This one has so many kinds of likely baggage that comes with it, and it has more holes in it than Swiss cheese. It is a really bad way to not solve any problem at all, but incentivize some really bad behavior with potentially deadly consequences.