Hatch: Balanced Budget Amendment Would Stop Us From Sinking In “Fiscal Quicksand”

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U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Ranking Member of the Senate Finance Committee, Wednesday expressed disappointment after Senate Democrats defeated S.J. Res 10, a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution. Hatch is the lead sponsor of S.J. Res 10, which has garnered the support of all 47 Republicans in the Senate.

In remarks on the Senate floor before the vote, Hatch said that “the strong balanced budget amendment offered by the Republicans directly addresses the real cause of our budget crisis and offers equally direct solutions.”

Hatch later added that S.J. Res 10 is “the only proposal that addresses the real cause of the unbalanced budgets that are dragging us into fiscal quicksand.”

To watch Hatch’s speech, click HERE, and his entire remarks are below:

Mdme. President, in a short while we will vote on two balanced budget amendments to the Constitution. One of those amendments — Senate Joint Resolution 10, the amendment supported by every Senate Republican — addresses the fundamental crisis of our time. That is a crisis of exploding debt caused by excessive spending.

The other amendment does not address that crisis and, therefore, cannot put this country back on sound fiscal footing.

The votes we cast today will tell the American people whether we honestly acknowledge the fiscal crisis posed by our $15 trillion national debt, and whether we are serious about prescribing an effective cure.

Exploding budget deficits and skyrocketing national debt are symptoms of an addiction to overspending. A real solution must address the real cause of this crisis, not just its symptoms.

Congress will not kick this overspending addiction alone, but only if required to do so by the Constitution. One of the amendments before us today, S.J.Res. 24, simply cannot be a solution because it does not address the overspending that causes this crisis.

This amendment offered by my colleague from Colorado, Senator Udall, purports to require balanced budgets, but for purely political reasons explicitly exempts significant portions of the very government spending that will most aggressively drive future debt.

The Democratic alternative sets no overall limit on government spending, allowing Congress to continue spending with impunity.

The Democratic alternative does nothing to restrict the propensity of Congress and the President to raise taxes on families and businesses as a way of compensating for their failure to reduce spending and in order to fuel more spending in the future.

In fact, as my friend Senator Kyl pointed out yesterday, the Democratic alternative actually makes it harder to cut taxes.

And to top it off, the Democrats’ amendment not only sets no limit on Congress raising taxes, but it appears to allow judges to raise taxes to balance the budget.

In other words, the Democratic alternative allows Congress to continue doing exactly what has caused this crisis in the first place. It allows Members of Congress committed to a tax-and-spend philosophy to continue sending taxpayer dollars to special interests at the expense of the general fiscal health of this country.

A so-called solution that continues to enable out-of-control spending is no solution at all.

Maintenance of this tax-and-spend status quo is the priority of those who support the Democratic alternative.  Just listen to their criticism of my amendment, S.J.Res.10 — the one supported by all Senate Republicans.

They criticize its requirement that Congress balance its books as too stringent. They criticize it for not allowing more stimulus spending. And they criticize it for not allowing easy tax increases.

The people of Utah, and most Americans for that matter, would respond that these are the very restrictions that Congress needs. They would say that these restrictions are long overdue and would be positive additions to our Constitution. So it is no wonder that the advocates of the worn out philosophy of tax-and-spend view the provisions of S.J.Res.10 as a threat.

They are a threat to those whose only plan is to sit on their hands while our debt continues to skyrocket.

The strong balanced budget amendment offered by the Republicans directly addresses the real cause of our budget crisis and offers equally direct solutions. It requires supermajorities, which means it requires wide bipartisan agreement, for deficit or excess spending as well as for raising either taxes or the debt limit.

I would note that a supermajority to raise the debt limit was in the balanced budget amendment that passed the Senate back in 1982.

Our amendment limits both spending and the tax increases that fuel more spending. This is really more than a balanced budget amendment; it is a fiscal discipline amendment or a constitutional amendment for limited government.

Much of the Western world now faces a debt crisis. The Eurozone is nearing the point of no return. The United States is closing in on that same point, with our total debt already equal to 100 percent of our entire economy. The national debt now amounts to about $48,000 for every man, woman, and child in America. Interest payments alone on all this debt are now greater than spending on most other federal programs, and would be even higher if interest rates were not today at historic lows. Annual budget deficits today are larger than the entire national debt when I introduced my first balanced budget amendment in 1979, and ten times higher than when the Senate last voted on a balanced budget amendment.

More than two centuries ago, America’s founders warned of the dangers of debt. Thomas Jefferson, the forebearer of the Democratic Party, said that public debt is the greatest of dangers to be feared.  Alexander Hamilton said that there ought to be a perpetual, anxious, and unceasing effort to reduce debt as fast as possible. And John Adams said that the experience of other countries that accumulate debt should prevent us from doing so ourselves. He might as well have been speaking about Europe today.

Watching the failure of Congress and the President to get spending and debt under control, they must be turning over in their graves, and I believe that we continue to reject their wisdom at our peril.

Despite all the evidence, opponents continue to claim that Congress will make the tough fiscal choices all by itself, that Congress does not need any help. After so many years of failure, that amounts to fiddling while our fiscal house is burning to the ground. Closing their eyes, shutting their ears, and repeating the mantra that Congress does not need a constitutional amendment is exactly what got us to the edge of the cliff we stand over today.

If spending were a drug, Congress would be an addict. An addict ignores the evidence and denies he has a problem. An addict claims over and over that he can stop his addictive behavior any time he wants. But like a real addict, Congress cannot kick the habit on its own. Congress needs help.

Think of Senate Joint Resolution 10 as a constitutional intervention. It will require not only that the federal budget be balanced, but that it be balanced the right way.

When we vote on these amendments, Senators will demonstrate where they stand on the crisis of our time. Voting against the Republicn balanced budget amendment simply endorses the status quo, ignores the evidence, and pretends that everything is fine even as we head for the cliff.

But voting for the Democrats’ alternative — Senate Joint Resolution 24 — also endorses the status quo because it barely touches the symptom — budget deficits and debt — while ignoring the cause — government spending. Without covering all government spending, and without setting real limits on spending and taxes, the Democrats’ alternative does little more than put a band-aid on the problem.

The only proposal before us that effectively responds to our budget crisis is Senate Joint Resolution 10. It is the only proposal that addresses the real cause of the unbalanced budgets that are dragging us into fiscal quicksand.

This crisis threatens national security, economic prosperity, and individual liberty. Congress will not solve this crisis by itself. Senate Joint Resolution 10 is the only solution that addresses not only the symptoms of our fiscal crisis, but the cause as well.

Those are the facts. I encourage my colleagues to support Senate Joint Resolution 10 today.

It is our only hope.

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