Balanced Budget Amendment Vote a Turning Point; Hatch-Lee Passage Could Halt the Red Ink

Article excerpt

Byline: Al Cardenas, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The upcoming vote on a balanced budget amendment, authored by Sen. Orrin G. Hatch and Sen. Mike Lee, Utah Republicans, may be the most essential policy shift in a generation. For conservatives and anyone concerned about the economic underpinnings of our country, this moment is a time for action.

Under our current pattern of spending, America's debt increases by nearly $4 billion each day. That's right - $4 billion - every single day.

This week, as that debt clock continues whirling dizzily in the wrong direction, Congress will have one opportunity in the final days of 2011 to turn back the hands.

The vote on raising the debt ceiling in August required a vote on a balanced budget amendment, and the Senate is expected to take the issue up Wednesday. Ultimately, the Senate vote will tell Americans exactly how serious our leaders are about securing our economic future.

Without a sincere spending reduction that includes a balanced budget amendment, we will never eliminate our existing $15 trillion debt. In fact, a more immediate challenge will be to reduce the additional $10 trillion debt that is coming in the next 10 years. While much of the discussion has centered on existing debt, little has been said about the additional trillions we are incurring imminently. Even with the $1.2 trillion automatic cut, we will barely make a dent in this forthcoming debt if the country stays the current course.

If that wasn't bad enough, neither President Obama nor Senate Democrats have proposed a budget in more than 2 1/2 years. Since that time, our national debt has grown by $3.6 trillion. A business operated in such a reckless manner would have shuttered its doors long ago. A balanced budget amendment would ensure this never happens again.

It is critical that a recorded vote be taken on an amendment that includes important safeguards for taxpayers and incorporates elements of the Cut, Cap and Balance plan our organization endorsed earlier this year. The only amendment that satisfies these requirements is S.J. Res. 10, the Hatch-Lee balanced budget amendment. All 47 Republicans in the Senate have co-sponsored this resolution.

The amendment directs the president to submit a balanced budget to Congress annually, requires a two-thirds supermajority vote to raise taxes, includes a provision preventing the courts from requiring taxes to balance the budget, requires spending to be held to 18 percent of gross domestic product, and can only be waived if there's a declaration of war or if a serious military conflict is declared by a three-fifths vote of both houses.

The Senate can make this amendment even stronger by eliminating potential conflicts and clarifying confusing elements, such as sections that calculate the spending numbers using different methods. …