OPPOSING THE BALANCED BUDGET AMENDMENT; Congressional Record Vol. 141, No. 23
(Senate - February 06, 1995)

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[Pages S2147-S2148]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]


  Mr. AKAKA. Mr. President, as my colleagues know, we have all been 
elected to the Senate to make the difficult policy decisions that 
confront our Federal Government. Every day on the Senate floor, we 
engage in decisionmaking that is the essence of the legislative 
  Some decisions that come before the Senate are rather commonplace, 
such as how much to spend on scientific research or whether we will 
build and maintain new highways or ports. Other decisions are much more 
profound, such as who will become the next Supreme Court Justice, or 
whether or not our Nation will go to war.
  No decision a Senator makes it more profound than our vote on an 
amendment to the Constitution. Amending the Constitution is an 
extraordinary legislative action that has occurred only a few times in 
our Nation's history.
  The first 10 amendments, which we know as the Bill of Rights, were 
proposed and ratified almost immediately after the Constitution itself. 
In the next 200 years, only 16 amendments were proposed by Congress and 
ratified by the States.
  This experience tells us that the balance and compromise crafted 
during the Constitutional Convention has served us very well. We are 
governed by a remarkably resilient document, and it is a tribute to our 
Founding Fathers that the Constitution has been amended so 
  I am deeply concerned that the amendment we are now considering will 
upset the delicate balance of power forged during the Constitutional 
Convention of 1787. The balanced budget amendment would transfer 
fundamental spending and taxing authority from Congress to the 
executive branch. By this amendment, we would unravel mechanisms that 
our Founding Fathers delicately weaved into the fabric of the 
Constitution to keep the excesses of the executive, judicial, and 
legislative branches in check. I genuinely fear that the balanced 
 [[Page S2148]] amendment would give rise to an imperial Presidency. 
And let us remember that domination by the Executive is what caused us 
to abandon our relationship with England and establish a great 
  During hearings convened by House and Senate committees, many 
professors of law and learned constitutional scholars expressed well-
founded concerns that, if ratified, the balanced budget amendment would 
permit the President to impose taxes or fees in order to enforce the 
amendment. It would also implicitly or explicitly repeal the 
impoundment control measures contained in the 1974 Budget Act.
  The notion that the Executive should be allowed to impose taxes 
without the concurrence of Congress is a radical proposition. It 
violates the constitutional principle that Congress alone should have 
the power to lay and collect taxes.
  Our Constitution is a remarkable document. As ratified by the States, 
its fundamental elements are now familiar to us all: A government 
divided into three parts--each part separate and distinct--and each 
armed with tools to defend against the excesses of the other.
  Yes, our Constitution has been amended over the years. We have 10 
amendments that set forth fundamental rights guaranteed to all. We have 
a number of housekeeping amendments which establish the electoral 
college, provide for the election of Senators by popular vote, and 
establish an orderly process in the event of the death of the 
President. We have amendments that secure freedom and promote universal 
suffrage, such as the 13th, ending slavery; 14th, due process, equal 
protection; 15th, end discrimination; and the 19th and 26th amendments, 
vote for women and 18-year-olds.
  But none of these amendments reorders the fundamental structure of 
power and authority as would occur under the balanced budget amendment. 
The balanced budget amendment would tilt the balance of power heavily 
in favor of the Executive, and, as I said earlier, promote an imperial 
  There are those who argue that a balanced budget amendment is a good 
idea. After all, if families can balance their budgets, why cannot the 
Federal Government? Under the proposed amendment, the Federal 
Government would be required to balance its budget every year. The only 
time a deficit could occur would be during time of war, or when three-
fifths of the House and Senate agree. While it sounds easy, there 
remains a glaring problem with such a simplistic approach to reducing 
the Nation's debt. What programs would Congress cut to achieve a 
balanced budget by the year 2002, the date on which the amendment would 
go into effect? What Federal agencies would have their budgets
 slashed in order to help the Federal Government meet the requirements 
of the balanced budget amendment?

  Estimates by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office call for 
spending cuts totaling $1.5 trillion by the year 2002. CBO also 
predicts that if Social Security and defense are exempted from the 
balanced budget numbers then all other Federal programs would be cut 
across the board by 30 percent. That of course, is assuming that all 
cuts are equal and that partisanship is left out of the mix.
  Although I wholeheartedly support and endorse efforts to balance the 
Federal budget, I am greatly concerned that the $1.5 trillion in 
spending cuts needed to meet the goals of a balanced budget amendment 
by the year 2002 would have a devastating impact on a wide segment of 
our population. Supporters of the resolution fail to explain where 
these tremendous budget cuts would fall. Without assurances that 
Federal agencies and programs would be equitably affected, such a plan 
is unworkable.
  I strongly back Democratic leader Daschle's amendment that would 
require Congress to pass an honest, detailed plan to balance the budget 
before the balanced budget constitutional amendment goes to States for 
ratification. It is irresponsible for us to vote on an amendment 
requiring a balanced budget which would necessitate draconian budget 
cuts without knowing what we would be cutting and how. We need to know. 
The American people have the right to know.
  Let me mention a few more aspects of this balanced budget amendment 
that concern me. A constitutional amendment to balance the Federal 
budget could damage the economy more than strengthen it. Greater 
amounts of deficit cutting would be required in periods of slow growth 
than in times of rapid growth--an action which economists predict would 
result in more frequent and deeper recessions.
  Such an amendment could also limit public investments that are 
critical to long-term growth because the amendment makes no distinction 
between investments such as education and training and early 
intervention programs for children, and other types of government 
spending. These investments are necessary to ensure the Nation's 
competitiveness and help the economy grow.
  Because the amendment calls for a balanced budget every year, 
regardless of whether economic growth is strong or weak, larger 
spending cuts or tax increases would be needed in periods of slow 
growth than in times of rapid growth, further exacerbating an already 
crippled economy.
  Mr. President, I know we will have ample time to debate this issue 
further, and I look forward to the ensuing debate.