Senators Mark Udall (D-Colo.) and Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) have introduced a Balanced-Budget Amendment to the Constitution that—are you sitting down?—includes a 20% of GDP cap on federal spending! It requires a 3/5 vote of both houses to run deficits or overspend, but in other respects is very much like a bill introduced by Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and 23 co-sponsors. Story here.
That’s bipartisan action on the Senate side. Over on the House side, we have a similar bill (3/5 majority vote, no spending cap - yet) introduced by Representatives Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), Jim Matheson (D-Utah), and 140 other co-sponsors.
That sounds both impressive and hopeful, but it’s not going to happen unless the People of the United States jump up right now and insist on it. The truth is that only 41 Democrats supported a balanced budget-amendment bill in March of 2010, and that similar bills are introduced into the Congress all the time. Senator Hatch himself has introduced this legislation quite a few times, although we can all be encouraged by his near-success in 1997.
In that year the amendment (a bill very similar to today’s Goodlatte version) passed the House, and came within a single vote of passing the Senate. It still would have needed ratification by 3/4 of the states, but that’s not as daunting as it sounds—because 49 of the 50 states have some sort of balanced-budget provision in their Constitutions. State legislators know that it’s possible for a government to live within its means.
What YOU need to do, right now, is click on http://www.contactingthecongress.org/ and write a quick note to your senators and representatives. Snail mail is probably the most impactful, but it’s better to send out three e-mails right now than resolve to send out a dozen letters later. Actually, you can do both.
The nation will thank you. Your children will thank you. Your grandchildren will thank you. Your great-grandchildren will thank you . . . .