“No family in America, no small business, when income goes down, can continue to spend at the same level. They have to live within their means, and so should the United States government.”
WASHINGTON — U.S. Senator John Cornyn, R-Texas, today delivered the following remarks on the Senate floor regarding his Balanced Budget Amendment resolution, which has been adopted by the Senate Republican Conference:
Mr. President, I’d like to briefly draw attention to a resolution that the conference of Republican Senators and Senators-Elect adopted yesterday. One that I think fits the times that we are living in, one which has seen historic levels of federal spending and debt and deficits as well as unsustainable debt that will be inherited by our children and grandchildren, unless we take responsibility for it.
And this resolution, I think, would demonstrate the seriousness that we would have as a Congress to get our nation’s fiscal house in order.
This resolution reads, “It is resolved by the United States Senate Republican Conference, that a Balanced Budget Amendment to the United States Constitution is necessary to restore fiscal discipline to our Republic; that a Balanced Budget Amendment should require the president to submit to Congress a proposed budget prior to each fiscal year in which total federal spending does not exceed total revenue; that Balanced Budget Amendment should include a requirement that a supermajority of both houses of Congress be necessary to increase taxes; and that a Balanced Budget Amendment should include a limitation on total federal spending.”
Mr. President, I want to thank the 20 Republican Senators and Senators-Elect who co-sponsored this resolution and the members of the conference who voted to adopt it, but let me just share a few factoids that I think will demonstrate the compelling nature of this joint resolution and constitutional amendment.
In fiscal year 2010, our deficit was $1.3 trillion, or 8.9% of the gross domestic product. That’s actually down from 9.9% in fiscal year 2009, but certainly nothing to celebrate. The Congressional Budget Office baseline estimates that federal deficits will average $625 billion each year through 2020, and the budget that the President submitted to us this year itself, if implemented, would call for an average of $1 trillion of deficit spending each year for the next 10 years.
We know that the Budget Act passed by Congress, signed by the President, requires the President of the United States to submit his budget by the first Monday in February, and I can tell you that I’m anxiously waiting to see in that budget proposal submitted by the President by the first Monday in February, his commitment to fiscal discipline. Now particularly since the American people have spoken so loudly and so clearly about their concerns over reckless spending and endless debt.
We know that a Balanced Budget Amendment actually works because virtually every state in the nation has one, including my state of Texas.
Only the federal government has really no requirement of a balanced budget, and can spend huge deficits, borrowed money it does not have.
No family in America, no small business, when income goes down, can continue to spend at the same level. They have to live within their means, so should the United States government.
We know that a Balanced Budget Amendment is popular with the public. A recent referendum held by Florida voters showed 71% approved of a nonbinding resolution supporting a Balanced Budget Amendment, and we’ve actually had votes in the United States Senate on this not that long ago. Well, it was 1997. I will let you judge whether that was long ago or not.
Actually at the time, 66 Senators voted in favor of a Balanced Budget Amendment; one shy of the two-thirds necessary, including 11 of our colleagues on the other said of the aisle, demonstrating the bipartisan support for the Balanced Budget Amendment.
Mr. President, it is important to note at that time when 66 Senators voted on a bipartisan basis for a Balanced Budget Amendment, the deficit was only 1.4% of gross domestic product. Today it’s 8.9%.
I think if a Balanced Budget Amendment was a good idea, at least in the minds of 66 Senators in 1997, it is an even better idea today. So I hope colleagues on both sides of the aisle will join with me, and I with them, to offer ideas of drafting of this joint resolution.
Of course, as you know, under Article 5 of the Constitution of the United States, a constitutional amendment can emanate from Congress itself with a two-thirds vote or it can be the result of a constitutional convention.
Under either circumstance, three-quarters of the states would be necessary to ratify it. But I think if Republicans and Democrats can listen to the voice of the American people and get behind a joint resolution, it will restore some of the public’s lost confidence in our ability, in our willingness both to heed their voice but also to live up to our responsibilities.
I think a Balanced Budget Amendment would be a big step forward in the cause of fiscal discipline, but of course not the only step.
As the co-chairs of the President’s debt commission have already indicated, we need other measures, like they called for, one that caught my eye, a cut-and-invest-committee charged with cutting waste and targeting investment they noticed. Actually, a good example at the state level is my state of Texas, where we have a sunset commission which requires every 10 years for every state agency to go through a process to determine whether the programs, and the agency itself, continues to have good reason to exist at the spending levels authorized.
We need something like that, which will provide tremendous ability for us to have additional tools to contain cost and to avoid wasteful spending.
To that end, I’ve introduced a bill in the model of the Texas Sunset Commission called the United States Authorization and Sunset Commission Act, and I urge my colleagues to take a look at that, as I can assure you that come January, when we have a new Congress, I will re-offer that legislation again.
President, thank you very much, and I yield the floor.
Senator Cornyn serves on the Finance, Judiciary, Agriculture and Budget Committees. He serves as the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee’s Immigration, Refugees and Border Security subcommittee. He served previously as Texas Attorney General, Texas Supreme Court Justice, and Bexar County District Judge.