Conyers: 123 Organizations Oppose a Balance Budget Amendment
Washington, DC, October 4, 2011
Today, the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. Previously, the Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution held a hearing on H. J. Res 1, a balanced budget amendment, which the Full Committee subsequently reported. During the hearing, the majority’s witnesses, including former U.S.attorney general and Pennsylvania Governor Dick Thornburgh, acknowledged that they could not support a balanced budget amendment as reported by the House Judiciary Committee. Following the hearing, Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) made the following statement:
“The Majority is interested in using a Constitutional amendment to enshrine their preferred policies in the Constitution,” said Conyers. “Under H.J. Res. 1, an amendment previously considered and passed by the Committee, Congress would require supermajorities in both Houses to increase revenues, raise the debt limit, and spend more than 18% of GDP in any given year, while only requiring simple majorities to cut spending, even on critical programs such as Social Security and Medicare, or to create special interest tax loopholes. This amendment is not designed simply to balance the budget, but to ensure that future budgetary disputes are stacked against policies the Majority rejects on principle in favor of policies they prefer, regardless of the nation’s future financial situation.
“Furthermore, while the Majority’s witnesses supported a balanced budget amendment in principle, the type of amendments they support differ radically from anything Republican Members have proposed. For example, while states are required to balance their budgets, the Majority’s witnesses, including former Pennsylvania Governor Dick Thornburgh, pointed out that states have separate expense and capital budgets, allowing borrowing for large development projects, and only requiring the expense budget to be in balance. Furthermore states are able to use trust funds and rainy day funds to ensure that budgets are in balance over time, but not necessarily in any given year, to allow for fluctuations in the economy and tax receipts. The absence of these provisions in federal amendments proposed by the Majority, coupled with their insistence that the only way to balance the budget is through spending cuts alone, leads me to conclude that they are more interested in enshrining their policies into the Constitution then addressing deficit reduction in a balanced manner that preserves programs critical to seniors and working families who have carried the brunt of the current economic recession.
“One hundred twenty three organizations have registered their strong opposition to a balanced budget amendment. These organizations include groups committed to the needs of the elderly, the middle class, our children, and working families. We must address the deficit as we did under President Clinton: through sound economic policies and reasonable adjustments in spending and revenues.”