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Resolving Our Fiscal Disaster

June 21, 2011 J

By Orrin Hatch and Tim Phillips
June 21, 2011

Last November, voters went to the ballot box with a message to Washington: Stop the spending binge that’s driven our national debt to record levels. Voters sent dozens of new representatives to Congress, calling on lawmakers to get serious about restraining spending.

Unfortunately, too many haven’t gotten the message.

President Barack Obama and his allies have abandoned any pretense of seriously engaging in a debate on our spending-fueled debt crisis. Reforming our broken and near-bankrupt entitlement programs, the leading contributors to our national debt, has degenerated into cheap political potshots. And good-faith efforts to reduce our deficit with cuts to discretionary spending simply won’t be enough.

It’s increasingly clear that without constitutional guiderails compelling the federal government to get its fiscal house in order, Congress and the White House will not effectively address the nation’s spending problem.

Fortunately, the Constitution can be amended to resolve serious national problems. It is time for a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution.

The position of Senate Republicans is clear: All 47 support the amendment that requires the federal government’s outlays and receipts to match, a principle of governance so obvious that 49 of our 50 states live by it.

Since spending is the source of the federal government’s fiscal problems, this amendment limits spending to 18 percent of gross domestic product, the historic percentage of revenue collected by the federal government.

In order to limit the size of government and restore constitutional limits on federal authority, it requires a two-thirds vote in both chambers of Congress to raise taxes and a three-fifths vote of both houses of Congress to raise the nation’s debt limit.

Sending a Balanced Budget Amendment to the states would dramatically shift the balance of power from Washington back to the people. As is true with all constitutional amendments, 38 states would need to ratify it.

Federal overspending has become a legitimate threat to our constitutional order and way of life. It is time for Congress to approve this amendment and send it to the states for ratification.

Orrin Hatch is a Republican U.S. senator from Utah. Tim Phillips is president of Americans for Prosperity.

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