American people want a balanced budget

July 20, 2011 

President Barack Obama's warning to Republicans that he would take the debt limit debate to the American people is music to my ears.

Mr. President, I do not fear such a debate. Quite frankly, I welcome it.

While I disagree with President Obama on many issues regarding our current fiscal situation, I do agree with him we should give the American people a voice in this matter. It's their voices that are missing, and through their voices, Congress and the president will get the direction we sorely need.

Do Americans really want to pass onto future generations ever increasing loads of debt, much of it owed to creditors in China? Or do Americans want us to begin making the tough choices needed to get our financial house in order?

Piling new stacks of debt on top of the mountain-sized piles we already have serves nobody's interests. There is only one change that would overhaul the dynamics of Washington spending.

Congress must pass a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution and send it to the states for ratification.

While President Obama does not believe we need the discipline of a balanced budget amendment, I do.

Our nation is now borrowing 40 cents of every dollar we spend. What rational person could ever think Congress will do the hard things required to balance the budget given our history for the past 40 years?

Through my years in the House of Representatives and Senate, I have consistently voted for and worked toward the passage of a balanced budget amendment.

In 1995, I took to the House floor to ask, "What does it mean when you are $4.5 trillion-plus in debt? The honest answer is I cannot even imagine that money in real terms. The real serious consequences of spending that much money more than you have is that over time you ruin the character of your people. Over time, everybody in the country begins to look to the federal government to solve every problem they have."

Four years ago, when our nation was $9 trillion in debt, I introduced a balanced budget amendment with my South Carolina colleague Sen. Jim DeMint. And this year, with our nation more than $14 trillion in debt, I'm working with Sen. Mike Lee of Utah in another effort to pass this much-needed and long-overdue reform.

From my experience, I do not believe either party has the will to bring about a balanced budget. Forty-nine states already have requirements to produce a balanced budget. These states all know that the only way to sustain a balanced budget each year is put tough rules in place. Balanced budget requirements work in the states, the great laboratories of our democracy, and it will work in Washington.

Special-interest politics on both the left and right grow stronger every year. Balancing the budget will require both parties to make hard choices, such as controlling the growth of entitlements, reforming an out-of-control tax code, putting defense spending under a microscope and finally having to say "no" to people when it comes to federal spending.

The reason Congress and the president are never able to achieve consensus on the hard choices is that under the present construct, we're not required to do so. Every hard issue is looked at through the prism of how it affects the next election, not how it affects the country. That dynamic must change.

I urge the House of Representatives to pass "cut, cap, and balance" legislation that would raise the debt ceiling, contingent on Congress passing a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. I will, along with many of my colleagues, continue pushing the Senate in this direction as well.

Because of our debt, we are in jeopardy of losing the American dream in which children are able to do better than their parents.

It's time we bring discipline to the way Congress spends. Now is the time to insist on a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution before our country becomes Greece.

Simply stated, no more borrowing until we agree to balance.

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