(House of Representatives - November 17, 2011)

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[Pages H7782-H7805]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []


  Mr. SMITH of Texas. Mr. Speaker, pursuant to House Resolution 466, I 
move to suspend the rules and pass the joint resolution (H.J. Res. 2) 
proposing a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution of the United 
States, as amended.
  The Clerk read the title of the joint resolution.
  The text of the joint resolution is as follows:

                              H.J. Res. 2

       Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the 
     United States of America in Congress assembled   (two-thirds 
     of each House concurring therein), That the following article 
     is proposed as an amendment to the Constitution of the United 
     States, which shall be valid to all intents and purposes as 
     part of the Constitution when ratified by the legislatures of 
     three-fourths of the several States within seven years after 
     the date of its submission for ratification:

                              ``Article --

       ``Section 1. Total outlays for any fiscal year shall not 
     exceed total receipts for that fiscal year, unless three-
     fifths of the whole number of each House of Congress shall 
     provide by law for a specific excess of outlays over receipts 
     by a rollcall vote.
       ``Section 2. The limit on the debt of the United States 
     held by the public shall not be increased, unless three-
     fifths of the whole number of each House shall provide by law 
     for such an increase by a rollcall vote.
       ``Section 3. Prior to each fiscal year, the President shall 
     transmit to the Congress a proposed budget for the United 
     States Government for that fiscal year in which total outlays 
     do not exceed total receipts.
       ``Section 4. No bill to increase revenue shall become law 
     unless approved by a majority of the whole number of each 
     House by a rollcall vote.
       ``Section 5. The Congress may waive the provisions of this 
     article for any fiscal year in which a declaration of war is 
     in effect. The provisions of this article may be waived for 
     any fiscal year in which the United States is engaged in 
     military conflict which causes an imminent and serious 
     military threat to national security and is so declared by a 
     joint resolution, adopted by a majority of the whole number 
     of each House, which becomes law. Any such waiver must 
     identify and be limited to the specific excess or increase 
     for that fiscal year made necessary by the identified 
     military conflict.
       ``Section 6. The Congress shall enforce and implement this 
     article by appropriate legislation, which may rely on 
     estimates of outlays and receipts.
       ``Section 7. Total receipts shall include all receipts of 
     the United States Government except those derived from 
     borrowing. Total outlays shall include all outlays of the 
     United States Government except for those for repayment of 
     debt principal.
       ``Section 8. This article shall take effect beginning with 
     the fifth fiscal year beginning after its ratification.''.

  The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. Hastings of Washington). Pursuant to 
House Resolution 466, the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Smith) and the 
gentleman from Michigan (Mr. Conyers) each will control 2 hours and 30 
  The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Texas.

                             General Leave

  Mr. SMITH of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that all 
Members may have 5 legislative days within which to revise and extend 
their remarks and include extraneous materials on House Joint 
Resolution 2, as amended, currently under consideration.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the 
gentleman from Texas?
  There was no objection.
  Mr. SMITH of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may 
  Americans want the Federal Government to stop excessive government 
spending and reduce the Federal deficit. The last time the budget was 
balanced was during the Clinton administration, when Republicans in 
Congress passed the first balanced budget in over 25 years. Meanwhile, 
the Federal debt has climbed from less than $400 billion in 1970 to 
over $15 trillion today.
  Mr. Speaker, President Obama has set the wrong kind of new record. 
The national debt has increased faster under his administration than 
under any other President in history. America cannot continue to run 
huge Federal budget deficits. Financing Federal overspending through 
continued borrowing threatens to drown Americans in high taxes and 
heavy debt, and it puts a drag on the economy.
  The Federal Government now borrows 42 cents for every dollar it 
spends. No family, no community, no business, no country can sustain 
that kind of excessive spending. That is the road to insolvency. 
Unfortunately, this kind of bad behavior has gone unchecked for so long 
that it has become the norm. The Federal Government has been on a 
decades-long shopping spree, racking up the bills and leaving them for 
future generations.
  We need a Constitutional mandate to force both the President and 
Congress to adopt annual budgets that spend no more than the government 
takes in. Only a balanced budget constitutional amendment will save us 
from unending Federal deficits.
  Just as both parties have joint responsibility for the deficit, we 
must jointly take responsibility for controlling the deficit by passing 
the balanced budget amendment. We came very close to passing this 
balanced budget amendment in 1995, falling just one vote short in the 
Senate of the required two-thirds majority. In that Congress, the 
amendment was supported by Congressman Hoyer, now minority whip, 
Congressman Clyburn, now Assistant Democratic leader, and Senator 
Joseph Biden, now Vice President.
  As then-Senator Biden stated in support of the balanced budget 
amendment, ``In recent decades we have faced a problem that we do not 
seem to be able to solve. We cannot balance our budget--or more 
correctly, we will not. The decision to encumber future generations 
with financial obligations is one that can rightly be considered among 
the fundamental choices addressed in the Constitution.''
  Congress is way overdue to pass a balanced budget amendment, and the 
American people want it. Polls show that 74 percent are in favor of a 
balanced budget amendment. It took less than a generation for us to get 
into this mess, we need a fiscal fix that will now last for 
  If we want to make lasting cuts to Federal spending, a constitutional 
amendment is the only solution. It is our last line of defense against 
Congress' unending desire to overspend and overtax.
  Thomas Jefferson believed that ``the public debt is the greatest of 
dangers to be feared.'' Jefferson wished ``it were possible to obtain a 
single amendment to our Constitution taking from the Federal Government 
the power of borrowing.'' It is time that we listened to Thomas 
Jefferson and passed a constitutional amendment to end the Federal 
Government's continuous deficit spending. We must solve our debt crisis 
to save the future.
  I want to thank Mr. Goodlatte, the gentleman from Virginia, for 
introducing the version of the balanced budget amendment we are 
considering today and for his tireless work in support of the 
  Since the 1930s, dozens of proposals offered by both Democrats and 
Republicans have called for constitutional amendments to address 
Federal budget deficits. We have the opportunity today to take the 
first step toward making a balanced budget a reality by passing this 

                              {time}  1630

  The American people have not given Congress a blank check. Let's 
demonstrate to the American people that Congress can be fiscally 
responsible and get our economic house in order. Borrowing 42 cents for 
every dollar the government spends and setting a new deficit record is 
not the road to prosperity. Let's put our country first and pass this 
  Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
  Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
  Ladies and gentlemen, this balanced budget constitutional amendment 
is one that surprises me, and very little surprises me anymore. But for 
us to be seriously, on this day and this time, considering an amendment 
to the Constitution of the United States that would destroy jobs, that 
would drastically cut Medicare and Social Security and give members of 
the Federal judiciary the right to raise taxes and

[[Page H7783]]

make spending decisions for us is relatively shocking to me, and I am 
very much opposed to it.
  I want to engage my dear friend, the chairman of the committee, in an 
exchange of views on this, but let's start off the discussion with this 
reality. This is not 1995, and that's why so many people that supported 
the amendment then have changed their minds now, and they will explain 
this as they go along.
  I would like now, Mr. Speaker, to yield to the gentleman from New 
York, former chairman of the Constitution Subcommittee, Jerry Nadler, 
for as much time as he may consume.
  Mr. NADLER. I thank the gentleman for yielding.
  Mr. Speaker, I rise in opposition to this misguided attempt to amend 
our constitution. It is both bad economic policy and bad constitutional 
  Let's start with the basics. While balancing your budget and paying 
down your debts is important--and we did that under President Clinton--
a balanced budget every year, regardless of the circumstances, even 
when facing economic crisis, a natural disaster or a terrorist threat, 
is economically dangerous. We would be risking economic ruin if we 
enshrined this unyielding rule in the Constitution and shackled future 
generations to one particular economic policy preference that does not 
work at all times and in all situations.
  In general, the economists tell us, in good times, you should have a 
balanced budget and pay down the debt. In bad times, when a recession 
increases demands on government and tax revenues fall, or in 
emergencies, you need to be able to run a deficit.
  The nonpartisan economists at Macroeconomics Advisers, for example, 
tell us that if this amendment were in effect next year, in fiscal year 
2012, it would eliminate 15 million jobs and double the unemployment 
rate. And this amendment would shackle future generations in such 
  One thing we can be sure of, this amendment will devastate the 
economy; destroy Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security; cripple our 
government's ability to deal with national emergencies, maintain our 
vital infrastructure, or deal with new challenges as they emerge.
  Let's be clear on what this amendment does not do. It does not 
require us to balance the budget the way States or businesses or 
families do. They're not required to spend no more than that year's 
income. Families borrow money. If they were told you must pay cash--you 
want to buy a house, pay cash; you want to buy a car, pay cash--they 
wouldn't have the house, they wouldn't have the car, the standard of 
living would be much lower.
  States borrow money. States have balanced budget amendments 
generally, but those amendments refer to their operating budgets. They 
borrow money for their capital budgets to build bridges and roads and 
highways. The budget of the United States does not make such a 
distinction, and this balanced budget amendment would say you can never 
borrow money. You cannot borrow money to build highways, to make 
investments, to deal with the economy in a recession. It doesn't make 
  Similarly, we collect payroll taxes to pay for Social Security 
benefits. We collect gasoline taxes to pay for transportation 
infrastructure, and we carry over unexpended funds in those trust funds 
from prior years. Because they were paid in prior years, those revenues 
would not count, only the expenditures. If you paid $100 in Social 
Security taxes in 1960 and drew $100 of benefits in 2011, the budget 
would show a deficit of $100 because the tax was paid in a different 
year, even though it's the same money. No matter how much money we had 
put away for a rainy day, we would still be limited to spending no more 
than that year's tax revenues. No one in this room balances their 
budget that way.
  What happens when you retire and your income drops? Do you not touch 
your savings because it didn't come in during that year? Of course not. 
You're not running a deficit when your expenses equals that year's 
income plus savings.
  I know we have a lot of millionaires here, but did anyone pay cash 
for their home?
  But this amendment enshrines crazy bookkeeping and distorted policies 
into our Constitution. So all the chatter about States and businesses 
and families balancing their budgets is true, but it's irrelevant to 
what this amendment actually says.

  Because this is a constitutional amendment, it would give Federal 
judges, those same unelected, life-tenured Federal judges my Republican 
friends always complain about, the power to cut spending and raise 
taxes. Anyone could bring a lawsuit if the budget doesn't balance, if 
the estimated receipts, in his opinion, didn't match the estimated tax 
revenues, and a judge would have to decide whose revenue and 
expenditure estimates were correct. And if they didn't match in the 
judge's opinion, the judge would have to decide to increase taxes or to 
cut expenditures and which expenditures it cut, an unelected judge.
  How is that possible? It's possible because, as a constitutional 
amendment, the courts will have to have the power to enforce it, just 
as they do the rest of the Constitution.
  The Constitution now gives the power to tax in the first instance to 
the House. All revenue measures must originate here. That's because we 
are closest to the people--the people's House. This would go as far 
away from that wise decision as you possibly can by giving that power 
ultimately to the only part of government that is not elected by the 
people and that is not accountable at the ballot box--the judiciary.
  The courts could also order reduction in spending to enforce a 
balanced budget. They could slash military spending or Social Security 
or eliminate disaster relief. The voters and Congress would be 
powerless to stop such decisions.
  Is this really someone's idea of constitutional conservatism?
  This amendment isn't limited to a requirement that we balance the 
budget. It imposes a three-fifths supermajority requirement to raise 
the debt ceiling. When we considered that in 1995, it never occurred to 
anyone that any Member of Congress, much less a majority, would 
consider allowing the United States to default on its debt. It wasn't 
just considered crazy; it was considered impossible.
  Today, unfortunately, we live in a different world. This year, for 
the first time in American history, we nearly defaulted on the full 
faith and credit of the United States and, for the first time in our 
history, saw our top credit rating downgraded, and that was for 
difficulty in getting a simple majority. A three-fifths majority would 
make it much more difficult.
  Is this balanced budget amendment necessary?
  We have been told it's the only way to impose the necessary 
discipline to force Congress to balance the budget. We know that's not 
true because we balanced the budget under President Clinton. We turned 
in four balanced budgets and ran a surplus. In fact, in 2001, Alan 
Greenspan, testifying in favor of President Bush's proposed tax cuts, 
said we had to reduce taxes because we were going to eliminate, pay 
down the entire national debt in 10 years, and that would be a bad 
thing, he thought, for various reasons. But that was the danger--we'd 
pay down and eliminate the national debt.
  But President Bush and a Republican Congress succeeded in turning 
that record surplus into record deficits in record time. They did it 
with two huge tax cuts, two unfunded wars, a prescription drug benefit 
that wasn't paid for, and the rejection of the Democratic Congress' 
pay-as-you-go rule. It was all done off the books.
  And I have heard the calumny that it was wild spending by the Obama 
administration that has brought about our $15 trillion national debt. 
Well, the truth of the matter is, if you look at non-defense 
discretionary spending, everything we do, other than defense and Social 
Security and Medicare and veterans benefits and interest on the debt, 
adjusted for population and for inflation, it hasn't gone up by a 
nickel since 2001.
  The fault, dear colleagues, is not in our Constitution; it's in an 
irresponsible Republican President and an irresponsible Republican 
Congress. Many of those same Republican Members who saw nothing wrong 
with busting the budget, who sat quietly when Vice President Cheney 
said that deficits don't matter, now demand this assault

[[Page H7784]]

on our founding document instead of delivering the votes for sound 
fiscal policy.
  We should do our jobs, not wreck the Constitution and the economy 
with snake oil cures like this. I urge a ``no'' vote.
  Mr. SMITH of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself 15 seconds.
  I just want to say to the gentleman from Michigan who spoke earlier 
that I agree with him. Today is not 1995. In fact, the deficit is 
worse. Since 1995, the deficit has tripled. It's gone from $5 trillion 
to $15 trillion, which is all the more reason to support this balanced 
budget amendment to the Constitution.

                              {time}  1640

  Mr. Speaker, I yield 5 minutes to my friend and colleague from 
Virginia (Mr. Goodlatte), the sponsor of this resolution.
  Mr. GOODLATTE. I thank the chairman for yielding.
  Mr. Speaker, this chart tells the story. We have had a number of 
opportunities over the years to pass balanced budget amendments to the 
United States Constitution. It's not my idea; it's not a new idea. But 
as we've gone through time, we've managed debt. Now, as the chairman 
just noted, in the last 15 years the debt has tripled.
  But looking ahead, this chart, which shows the ratio of our debt to 
our gross domestic product, and shows that by 2080 it will be nine 
times the total economic output of our country, indicates that what 
some on the other side have said simply is not the case.
  Congress has not made the tough decisions. We have overpromised the 
American people, and the fact of the matter is, now we need to have 
something in the Constitution that the American people expect and 
demand of us. And that is a balanced budget amendment.
  Now, we have lots of different balanced budget amendments that have 
been proposed in this Congress, I think 18 of them that I've seen thus 
far. And some ask for more stringent requirements--which I very much 
like--limiting the ability to balance this budget by putting a heavier 
burden on the American people through taxes. Capping the amount of 
money that we spend--certainly something that I also think we need to 
be cognizant of.
  Others have said let's take certain things off the table, like Social 
Security or capital spending or disaster spending.
  This balanced budget amendment, which passed this House with 300 
votes, including 72 Democrats, strikes the right balance. It enshrines 
in our Constitution the principle that we should live within our means 
but gives future Congresses the flexibility to, in times of national 
emergency, have some years that are not balanced. That, I think, is a 
reality that we have to deal with.
  But the fact of the matter is that in the last 50 years, since 1961, 
this Congress has balanced the budget of this Nation six times. It 
should be the other way around. There are certainly 6 years in those 50 
that were crises in which you might say we should not balance the 
budget this year.
  But when the gentleman from New York says that in good times we 
should pay down the debt, and in tough times we should borrow, that has 
not been what has happened because most of those 50 years have been 
good times.
  Now, there's another important point to make here. Any amendment to 
the United States Constitution has to, by its very nature, be 
bipartisan. It requires a two-thirds majority. And many of my friends 
on the other side of the aisle have worked very hard to build support 
on their side of the aisle for this. I especially want to thank Peter 
DeFazio and Jim Cooper. Many Members, the Blue Dogs, have endorsed this 
balanced budget amendment. But it is necessary to have a bipartisan 
approach to this.
  And you know what? This is a bipartisan problem. There have been 
Republican Presidents and Democratic Presidents, Republican Congresses 
and Democratic Congresses that have contributed to those 44 years when 
we've run deficits.
  So now today we come and ask for a bipartisan solution to this 
problem, a solution that, depending upon the poll, 75 to 80 percent of 
the American people support.
  Congress continues to prove it cannot make the tough decisions on its 
own. The budget has only been balanced six times in 50 years. The 
American people know what it means to balance their budgets. They are 
surprised that the Congress does not have this requirement. State 
governments do--49 out of 50 States, most of which have it in their 
constitutions. Local governments have to balance their budgets. 
Families and businesses have to live within their means, and they can't 
go more than a few years without living within their means.
  But to run up a $15 trillion debt which, divided by the population of 
our country, means that the average person today owes more in debt 
based upon their share of the government's debt than they have in 
personal income, is a disgrace. This is not only an economic issue. 
This is not only something that we should be imposing upon future 
Congresses for economic reasons. This is also a moral issue.
  This is wrong to borrow money year after year after year, over a 
trillion dollars in each of the last 3 years, so that today the average 
dollar spent by the Federal Government, 42 percent of it, by far the 
largest share, is borrowed against our children's and grandchildren's 
  And where does that lead us? It leads us to where Europe is.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. The time of the gentleman has expired.
  Mr. SMITH of Texas. I yield the gentleman 1 additional minute.
  Mr. GOODLATTE. This chart shows government debt as a percentage of 
GDP for the United States and five European countries--Spain, Portugal, 
Ireland, Italy, and Greece. When Greece first got into their problem 
last year, they were at 120 percent of GDP. That's what their debt 
totaled. Already just a little over a year later, it is 152 percent of 
GDP because their economy is shrinking because of irresponsibility on 
the part of their government.
  The United States just this week crossed the 100 percent line. The 
United States owes as much in debt as we have in the total economic 
output of this Nation for 1 year.
  It is time to put a halt to this, and the best way to do it is to 
enshrine in our Constitution a principle we all understand, we all live 
by, and that is you cannot live like this, you cannot live beyond your 
means year after year after year.
  I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to join this 
bipartisan effort to enshrine in our Constitution a principle sought by 
the vast majority of the American people.
  Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Speaker, I am pleased at this time to recognize the 
minority leader of the House of Representatives who, ever since she has 
come to Congress, has worked drastically to save and build on Medicare, 
Social Security, and to create jobs, the gentlewoman from California, 
Nancy Pelosi.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. The minority leader is recognized for 1 
  Ms. PELOSI. I thank the gentleman for yielding and for his kind words 
and his great leadership on all of the issues that are important to 
America's working families.
  Mr. Speaker, I came to the floor to talk about the balanced budget 
constitutional amendment, but before I get into my comments 
specifically to the amendment, I want to acknowledge that the gentleman 
from Texas, the distinguished chairman of the committee, Mr. Smith, has 
talked about what the deficit was in 1995 and how much bigger it is now 
and the distinguished maker of this resolution today, Mr. Goodlatte, 
talked about the problem of having such a big national debt.
  Recognizing those two facts, I want to speak up about them.
  First of all, if this were just talking about how we can reduce the 
deficit, the best way to do that is job creation. We know that.
  If we want to talk about what happened in the nineties, we have to 
reference the fact that under President Bill Clinton, the Reagan-Bush 
deficit that he inherited he turned around, and five of his last 
budgets, the Clinton budgets, were in balance or were in surplus. He 
put us on a trajectory, he and the growth of jobs in our country in the 
public, and largely in the private sector, took us to a path, a 
trajectory of $5.6 trillion in surplus.

[[Page H7785]]

  Along comes President George W. Bush and in record time, he reversed 
that. It was the biggest fiscal turnaround in our Nation's history, 
taking us to a trajectory of over $5 trillion in deficit, an $11 
trillion turnaround. Two unpaid-for wars said the CBO, the nonpartisan 
Congressional Budget Office. That was because of two unpaid-for wars, 
the Bush tax cuts, particularly at the high end which did not create 
jobs, and a giveaway pharmaceutical bill to the pharmaceutical 

                              {time}  1650

  Those were the three main reasons for the big fiscal turnaround and 
how we got deeply in debt. I don't remember a lot of complaints coming 
from the Republican side of the aisle while President Bush was taking 
us down this path. Mr. Goodlatte referenced two paths. Well, this is 
one path that President Bush took us down, so now we have to deal with 
that because the deficit is a concern to all of us.
  We believe that the best way to deal with that is what President 
Clinton did, which was to have a great economic agenda to generate 
jobs. Yet here we are, nearly 320 days into the Republican majority, 
and they have taken no action on any serious job-creating bills. Here 
we go again: debating legislation that will not create jobs.
  In fact, according to experts, the enactment of this proposed 
amendment to our Constitution would destroy 15 million jobs, double the 
unemployment rate, and cause the economy to shrink by 17 percent. As 
Bruce Bartlett said recently, former economic adviser to President 
Ronald Reagan and to President George Herbert Walker Bush:
  ``Even if we were not in an economic crisis and fighting two wars, a 
rapid cut in spending of that magnitude would unquestionably throw the 
economy into recession just as it did in 1937.''
  This legislation is an attack on our economy, and it is an attack on 
our seniors. According to the nonpartisan Center on Budget and Policy 
Priorities, it could result in cuts over 10 years of $750 billion to 
Medicare and $1.2 trillion in cuts to Social Security. These cuts would 
be devastating to the 40 million seniors who rely on Medicare and 
Social Security every day. They are even more draconian than the cuts 
in the Republican budget, which would effectively repeal the Medicare 
guarantee. And just one week after our Nation celebrated Veterans Day, 
we are debating potentially cutting $85 billion over the next 10 years 
from veterans' benefits.
  My colleagues on the other side of the aisle claim this is a clean 
balanced budget amendment. It is not. Because this proposed amendment 
to our Constitution will require a supermajority in both Chambers of 
Congress to raise the debt limit, it puts the full faith and credit of 
the United States of America in the hands of a minority--this after we 
went through all of the stress and strain and uncertainty and 
downgrading of our credit rating when we couldn't even get a majority, 
and now we're thinking of a supermajority vote for the debt limit 
increase. Again, that was never a requirement when President Bush was 
President that there would be a supermajority to raise the debt limit.
  This amendment promotes further brinkmanship and uncertainty, 
enshrining extreme ideology into the Constitution at a time when 
Americans have been very clear that they expect us to set differences 
aside and to get to work.
  It is our duty as Members of Congress--indeed, we take the oath of 
office--to be the elected guardians of our Constitution, to protect and 
defend it, and to do no harm to our founding documents. Yet, if this 
proposed amendment is adopted, it will have far-reaching and adverse 
  Mr. Speaker, I repeat that it was a Democratic President, President 
Clinton, who balanced the budget in the nineties. Five of his budgets 
were in balance or in surplus. We can do it again without harming our 
Constitution, our economy, our seniors, or our veterans. We must start 
by creating jobs and strengthening our economic growth--a key to 
reducing the deficit.
  It was interesting to me to hear others on the other side of the 
aisle talk about our children and our responsibility to them. Yes, 
that's what we said when President Bush was amassing his deficit, but I 
didn't hear anyone on the other side of the aisle talking about that.
  This is about our Constitution. We owe it to the vision of our 
Founders, to the sacrifice of our men and women in uniform, and to the 
aspirations of our children to get our economic and fiscal houses in 
order. This is the exact wrong way to do it. We must reignite the 
American Dream, and we have work to do on that. So let's get to work to 
create jobs so that many more people can achieve the American Dream.
  I urge my colleagues to vote ``no.''
  Mr. SMITH of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I yield 4 minutes to the gentleman 
from Arizona (Mr. Franks), who is the chairman of the Constitution 
Subcommittee of the Judiciary Committee.
  Mr. FRANKS of Arizona. I thank the gentleman for yielding.
  Mr. Speaker, all financial budgets will eventually balance. The 
choice faced by those of us in Congress is whether we will balance this 
budget ourselves through the wise policy before us or whether national 
bankruptcy and financial ruin will do it for us.
  From the very day that Barack Obama walked into the White House, he 
has, with breathtaking arrogance, absolutely ignored economic and 
financial reality. It took America the first 216 years of its existence 
to accumulate the debt that Barack Obama has accumulated in the first 3 
years of his Presidency. He has in those short 3 years increased our 
Federal debt by over $4 trillion.
  Just to put that into perspective, if all of a sudden a wave of 
responsibility swept through this Chamber and if we stopped all deficit 
spending today and began to pay installments of $1 million every day to 
pay down the over $4 trillion in new debt that Barack Obama has created 
in less than 3 years, it would take us more than 10,000 years to pay 
that off--and that's if we didn't pay one dime of interest in the 
  But you see, we are not paying Mr. Obama's debt down at $1 million 
per day; we are going deeper into debt, more than 4,000 times that 
much, every day under Mr. Obama's own submitted budget and deficit 
  In an ominous prologue to the vote before us, the national debt 
surpassed $15 trillion yesterday.
  Mr. Speaker, we have already tried Mr. Obama's way. We have 
thoroughly tested Democrat economics 101--the theory that we can tax 
and deficit spend ourselves into prosperity or, as Vice President Biden 
put it, ``We have to spend money to keep from going bankrupt.''
  That theory has utterly failed. We cannot repeal the laws of 
  But now the seminal moment approaches when each of us in this body 
will have the rare opportunity to cast a single vote that could pull 
this Nation back from the brink of economic cataclysm. For the sake of 
our children and our children's children, I pray that we do the right 

                Announcement by the Speaker Pro Tempore

  The SPEAKER pro tempore. The Chair must remind all Members that 
remarks in debate may not engage in personalities toward the President.
  Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Speaker, I am pleased now to yield 2 minutes to the 
distinguished gentleman from Virginia, Jim Moran.
  Mr. MORAN. I thank the chairman for yielding.
  Mr. Speaker, I have to rise in opposition to this balanced budget 
amendment. I did vote for a similar measure in 1995, but the events 
over the last 15 years have brought to mind the axiom ``fool me once, 
your fault; fool me twice, my fault.'' I could never have imagined back 
in 1995 the chaos we experienced this summer.
  Despite the fact that we only needed to obtain a simple majority vote 
to raise the debt limit, which we'd raised 17 times during the Reagan 
administration, that would seem like child's play compared to what we 
would have to go through if this balanced budget amendment passed.

                              {time}  1700

  The events of these last 15 years have proved to us that this bill 
would have dramatic and dangerous consequences for our economic future. 
It would force the Federal Government to worsen economic recessions. 
Since Federal revenues fall while human needs rise in economic 
downturns, this bill would force spending cuts and tax increases at 
precisely the point when the economy is reeling, potentially turning a

[[Page H7786]]

manageable downturn into a depression. Essentially, this bill would 
forbid countercyclical spending.
  Had this amendment been on the books in 2009, for example, we would 
not have passed the Economic Recovery Act, which proved to be a 
critical response to the economic catastrophe that followed the 
financial crisis. One of the reasons that the Recovery Act was 
necessary is that State balanced budget amendments forced States to 
rely on Federal funds in order to make up for budget shortfalls that 
would have prompted cuts right at the time when State economies could 
least afford them. The Federal Government was effectively borrowing on 
behalf of the States that were constitutionally prohibited from doing 
so; but they desperately needed to in order to maintain their law 
enforcement, their transportation, and their other responsibilities.
  Even in Texas, where Republican Governor Perry and the legislature 
opposed the Recovery Act, Federal stimulus funds were used to close 97 
percent of that State's budget gap. Now that those dollars are gone, 
many States face a very serious budget crisis.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. The time of the gentleman has expired.
  Mr. CONYERS. I yield the gentleman an additional 30 seconds.
  Mr. MORAN. I thank the gentleman.
  Furthermore, House Joint Resolution 2 would require a three-fifths 
majority to raise the debt ceiling. This would only increase the 
likelihood of a catastrophic debt default like the one we barely 
avoided this summer.
  Given the polarization that we're currently experiencing, I have 
severe doubts that the required supermajority could be secured either 
to respond to crises or to raise the debt ceiling. This would give 
preference to military action over economic crises, requiring only a 
majority for deficit spending for a war--such as the Iraq war, which 
was never paid for--but a three-fifths majority to respond to a 
domestic economic crisis. If this were enacted in 2012, it would 
require drastic cuts that would have unintended, but dire, consequences 
for our struggling economy.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. The time of the gentleman has again expired.
  Mr. MORAN. It's the wrong medicine for today's ailing economy.

                Announcement by the Speaker Pro Tempore

  The SPEAKER pro tempore. The Chair reminds Members to heed the gavel.
  Mr. SMITH of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I yield 2 minutes to the gentleman 
from South Carolina (Mr. Gowdy), a distinguished member of the 
Judiciary Committee.
  Mr. GOWDY. I thank the gentleman from Texas, Chairman Smith, for his 
leadership on this issue and so many others on Judiciary.
  Mr. Speaker, when Odysseus was returning from the Trojan War, he was 
passing the islands where the sirens sang. Many a sailor had succumbed 
to their sweet melodious sound and died. So Odysseus made his men put 
wax in their ears, and he made them tie him up to the mast. Against his 
will, he made them tie him up, and he did it because he lacked the will 
to restrain himself.
  When people take our freedom, we recoil. But when we've proven 
ourselves to be wholly incapable of exercising that freedom, we should 
give it up. Congress has proven itself to be hopelessly incapable of 
balancing the budget. We need to be made to do so because we cannot 
bring ourselves to make the hard decisions required.
  As my colleague and friend, the gentleman from Virginia (Mr. 
Goodlatte), who's been a leader on this issue, mentioned in his 
remarks, six times in 50 years is laughable. You would do better than 
six out of 50 if you just guessed. Six out of 50 is laughable. We are 
incapable of balancing our own budget.
  And when South Carolina, Mr. Speaker--which does have a balanced 
budget requirement--was facing tough economic times, we had to cut 
public safety money to prosecutors. I had to cut and furlough employees 
who were making $19,000 a year. I had to furlough prosecutors who had 
$100,000 in student loans for 7 days. That's a hard decision to make, 
but we had to do it for fiscal health.
  We need to make hard decisions, even if they're career-ending 
decisions, in this body; but we have proven ourselves incapable of 
doing it, so we must bind ourselves, even against our will.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. The time of the gentleman has expired.
  Mr. SMITH of Texas. I yield the gentleman an additional 30 seconds.
  Mr. GOWDY. Mr. Speaker, we are $15 trillion in debt. We need to tie 
ourselves up before we wreck this Republic.
  Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to yield 3 minutes to the 
gentleman from New Jersey, a distinguished leader in the Congress, Bill 
  Mr. PASCRELL. I thank the ranking member.
  Mr. Speaker, this attempt to change the Constitution of the United 
States is a real disaster. We all want to make sure we balance the 
budgets, but to compare our household budget to the national budget is 
preposterous because we have different responsibilities as a Federal 
  Alexander Hamilton, who wrote so many of the Federalist Papers--I 
thought we understand a great leader, a great American. I thought we 
understood what the responsibilities of government are.
  But talking about disasters, what about natural disasters? How would 
a balanced budget amendment affect how the Congress looks at when there 
is a tornado in Joplin, a wipe-out and flooding of New Jersey, a 
hurricane in Florida, wildfires in Texas? The amendment requires this 
balanced budget amendment--which is a joke to begin with, how you named 
it. It doesn't balance the budget. And if the amendment ever got 
through, it would take 7 years to implement. We have people out of work 
now. But anyway, the amendment requires a supermajority for every 
emergency spending case of natural disasters.
  Let's take my State of New Jersey. FEMA estimates that it will 
provide $400 million to help communities and individuals across the 
State recover and rebuild. Last September, we couldn't even get a 
majority, let alone a supermajority, to pass disaster aid unless it was 
offset with partisan budget cuts. Every State will have to go through 
  I want every State to know--you talk about the States. You talk about 
their budgets. Isn't it interesting that on January of this year, CBO 
Director Douglas Elmendorf wrote this: ``Amending the Constitution to 
require this sort of balance raises risks.'' Listen, my friends, 
brothers, and sisters: ``The fact that taxes fall when the economy 
weakens and spending and benefit programs increase''--by nature, they 
have to; people need help, unless we're no longer going to be a first-
rate Republic--``when the economy weakens in an automatic way under 
existing law is an important stabilizing force for the aggregate 
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. The time of the gentleman has expired.
  Mr. CONYERS. I yield the gentleman an additional 30 seconds.
  Mr. PASCRELL. I thank the gentleman.
  ``The fact that State governments need to work against these effects 
in their own budgets--need to take action to raise taxes or cut 
spending in recessions--undoes the automatic stabilizers, essentially, 
at the State level. Taking those away at the Federal level risks making 
the economy less stable, risks exacerbating the swings in business 
  We did it together, Democrats and Republican, '98, '99, 2000. We did 
it without an amendment to the Constitution, which will undermine this 
institution that we so revere right here today.
  Mr. SMITH of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I yield 2 minutes to my friend from 
California (Mr. Herger), a member of the Ways and Means Committee.

                              {time}  1710

  Mr. HERGER. Mr. Speaker, the American people understand the basic 
principle that you can't spend money you don't have. They live that 
reality on a daily basis. Unfortunately, Congress has disregarded this 
idea, choosing instead to imagine that it could spend money endlessly 
without harming our economy or standard of living. The result is that 
we're now an unthinkable $15 trillion in debt. Some argue that we don't 
need to amend the Constitution for Washington to do its job.
  I'm proud to say that I served on the Budget Committee in the late 

[[Page H7787]]

when we produced four consecutive balanced budgets. But the sad truth 
is that this kind of fiscal responsibility has been all too rare in 
recent years. Ultimately, a balanced budget amendment will force 
Congress to be serious about addressing the core driver of our debt, 
which is the out-of-control growth of Federal entitlement spending.
  As the President has acknowledged, no taxpayer would be willing to 
pay the amount required to sustain the exponential growth of 
entitlements, and no amount of budget gimmicks can hide this serious 
crisis. A balanced budget is a commonsense idea that governs our 
personal lives, and it should also be at the heart of how Congress 
operates. I strongly support the balanced budget amendment, and I urge 
the House to pass it.
  Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to yield 3 minutes to the 
gentlewoman from California, Judy Chu, a member of the Judiciary 
  Ms. CHU. Proponents of this bill claim it is about fiscal 
responsibility, but it is the opposite. This bill makes it impossible, 
in fact unconstitutional, for the government to save for the future. 
Under this bill, programs like Social Security or long term Federal 
highway projects would have to be completely eliminated to comply with 
the Constitution.
  Today, American workers put money into a Social Security trust fund 
built to pay and save for future benefits. But under this shortsighted 
constitutional amendment, money coming into the Federal Government must 
be paid out the same year. That means you can't have a Social Security 
trust fund, so good-bye Social Security. Good-bye saving for 
  Let me tell you how bad this idea is. Let's say for a moment that 
this was your family's budget. If this constitutional budget amendment 
applied to you, you would have to spend everything you earned in the 
same year. No college fund or IRA, no savings account to put a 
downpayment on a house or, God forbid, to pay for expensive medical 
treatment. Not only is that ludicrous, it is tragic.
  If that weren't bad enough, if this constitutional amendment goes 
through and no revenues are raised, all government programs will suffer 
a 17.3 percent cut. That's a $1.2 trillion reduction in Social Security 
payments through 2021. That is nearly a 20 percent reduction that would 
directly hurt current and future retirees and senior citizens for the 
next decade.
  This so-called balanced budget amendment balances overzealous budget 
slashing on the backs of our senior citizens and future retirees. Does 
Congress really want to send the message now, in the midst of the worst 
financial crisis since the Great Depression, that saving responsibly 
for the future is unconstitutional? Is Congress prepared to abandon 
millions of Americans now? I, for one, am not. And so I urge my 
colleagues to oppose this reckless constitutional amendment.
  Mr. SMITH of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I yield 30 seconds to the gentleman 
from Virginia (Mr. Goodlatte).
  Mr. GOODLATTE. I thank the chairman, and I just want to make it very 
clear that some inaccurate assertions have been made about the 
protection of Social Security and highway trust funds.
  The funds can be spent each year, and then any excess funds that need 
to be retained can be put into a rainy day fund. And so the Social 
Security trust fund or another type of fund like that is perfectly 
permissible under this provision. What is not permissible is continuing 
to run up debt year after year after year, and that is what endangers 
Social Security and Medicare and important programs for our senior 
citizens, and that is why this amendment is needed.
  Mr. SMITH of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I yield 2 minutes to the gentleman 
from Georgia (Mr. Barrow), a member of the Energy and Commerce 
  Mr. BARROW. I want to particularly thank the chairman for yielding me 
time to speak in support of the balanced budget amendment.
  Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of the balanced budget amendment, 
which I've supported since I first came to Congress. We all agree that 
our Nation's debt is unsustainable. Our economy is struggling, and 
folks everywhere are struggling to find work. But facts are stubborn 
things. And it's a fact that balancing the budget is essential if we're 
going to protect our future and the future of our children and 
grandchildren. Balancing the budget will also create the long-term 
stability our economy needs to fully recover.
  Amending our Constitution is not something to take lightly. We 
shouldn't do it on a whim or because it is politically expedient. 
Amending the Constitution is something that we as a Nation should 
undertake only when it is truly needed. Unfortunately, Congress has 
demonstrated time and again that it cannot and will not balance the 
budget on its own. It is truly needed now.
  Nearly every State in the Union has a balanced budget amendment. 
Families throughout America have to bring their income and outlays into 
balance, and so can the Federal Government.
  Mr. Speaker, this legislation is bipartisan. It is responsible. It is 
the right thing to do. And I hope my colleagues on both sides of the 
aisle will join me and the Blue Dog Coalition in supporting the 
balanced budget amendment.
  Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Speaker, I yield 1 minute to the gentleman from New 
York, Jerry Nadler.
  Mr. NADLER. Mr. Speaker, I have to correct what the distinguished 
gentleman from Virginia said a moment ago when he said that this 
amendment would not affect Social Security because Social Security 
would be paid for by the trust fund. This amendment says the total 
outlays cannot exceed receipts. Total outlays should include all 
outlays of the United States Government except for those for repayment 
of debt principle. That includes Social Security, which the courts have 
held is not a debt. Therefore, Social Security would have to be paid 
out of the same amounts, and they would be counted against the overall 
outlays when calculating whether the budget is in balance, something 
that's not the case today. It would throw the budget further out of 
balance and would require deeper cuts.
  If this amendment were in effect today, Medicare would have to be cut 
by $750 billion, Social Security by $1.2 trillion, and veterans 
benefits by $85 billion through 2021. Despite anything anyone may say 
on this floor, that's the simple truth about this amendment.
  Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Speaker, I yield 2 minutes to the gentlelady from 
Nevada, Shelley Berkley.
  Ms. BERKLEY. Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong opposition to this 
dangerous balanced budget constitutional amendment. We all agree that 
we must get America's fiscal house in order by cutting spending and 
balancing our budget. Nevada families know this. Families across Nevada 
are doing it by tightening their belts and making great sacrifices. The 
United States Government should be able to do the same.
  However, this balanced budget amendment is wrong for Nevada and it's 
wrong for the rest of the country. It would force massive cuts to 
Social Security, Medicare, and veterans benefits, but big oil companies 
and corporations that ship jobs overseas aren't asked to sacrifice one 
penny under this balanced budget amendment. That's just not right. But 
this is what the American people have come to expect from this 
  Washington Republicans supported a radical budget proposal, the Ryan 
budget, that kills Medicare by turning it over to private insurance 
companies. Now they are supporting a plan that slashes Social Security 
and Medicare benefits that seniors rely on. It's a question of 
  I strongly believe that we need to get our deficit under control, and 
I believe that a version of the balanced budget amendment could be one 
way to achieve that. But I cannot and I will not support a balanced 
budget amendment that doesn't include ironclad protections for Social 
Security, Medicare, and veterans benefits. We should not be balancing 
our Nation's budget on the backs of our seniors and our vets.
  This balanced budget amendment may be good politics for some, but it 
is not good policy for America. I urge my colleagues to join me in 
voting ``no'' on this attack on our seniors and our veterans.

                              {time}  1720

  Mr. SMITH of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I yield 1\1/2\ minutes to the 

[[Page H7788]]

from Oklahoma (Mr. Lankford), a member of the Oversight and Government 
Reform Committee.
  Mr. LANKFORD. Mr. Speaker, 27 times the United States Constitution 
has been amended. It's something we do rarely, and it's something that 
we should think through in the process. We do it only because it is 
absolutely required and we have common agreement across the House, the 
Senate, and the American people. This is one of those moments.
  If you ask most every American on the street, ``Should we balance our 
budget?'' they will nod their head. If you ask them again, ``Should we 
force Congress to balance the budget?'' again they will nod their head 
and say yes, this is something we should do.
  There is common agreement across the American people because it's 
common sense. It's hard to explain to any family or any business why 
they have to balance their budget but Congress does not. It is the 
ultimate exemption for Members of Congress that they can spend as much 
as they want as often as they would like without any retribution.
  I hear all the doomsday statements that if we balanced our budget, 
what would possibly happen if we had to live within our means? It makes 
me smile and say, just like every business and every family, we have to 
make hard choices, and we have to do it.
  But it's not what doomsday prediction happens if we balance our 
budget. It is look up across the ocean at what is happening in Europe 
right now to nations that did not balance their budget, and for some 
reason, we think as Americans we can run up as much debt as we would 
like with no consequence. We are fooling ourselves.
  The doomsday is coming. We must put a boundary around the United 
States Congress to be able to balance our budget. In 1995, when this 
failed by one vote, we will forever regret that if this occurs again. 
It's time for us to balance our budget once and for all.
  Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Speaker, I yield 2 minutes to the distinguished 
gentlelady from Ohio, Marcia Fudge.
  Ms. FUDGE. I thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
  Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak in opposition to the balanced 
budget amendment, H.J. Res. 2. Despite its name, this amendment does 
not balance the budget. It would have little effect on our deficit but 
could seriously harm our economy. It would destroy jobs, drastically 
cut Medicare and Social Security, and unconstitutionally give Federal 
judges the power to make spending decisions.
  And this amendment does not even require a balanced budget every 
year. What it does it make it easier to cut taxes and more difficult to 
raise taxes in order to allocate money to important programs that 
protect our veterans, our seniors, and our most vulnerable. It could 
also allow Federal judges to have the final say on taxing and spending 
  No one knows if amending the Constitution to require a balanced 
Federal budget will actually reduce the debt. No one knows if it could 
prevent the debt from growing in the future. What we do know is that 
when Democrats controlled Congress, PAYGO was effective in reining in 
spending. And what we do know is that this amendment is not the answer.
  If a balanced budget requirement were to go into effect, it would 
destroy millions of jobs. If the budget were balanced through spending 
cuts, those cuts would come to about $1.5 trillion in 2012. This would 
throw 15 million more Americans out of work, double the unemployment 
rate to approximately 18 percent, and cause the economy to shrink by 17 
  Republicans, as part of their budget proposal, have made it clear 
they want to cut Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. By requiring 
a balanced budget, these programs would be directly on the chopping 
block. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, this 
amendment could force Congress to cut all programs by an average of 
17.3 percent by 2018. If revenues are not raised, Medicare could be cut 
by about $750 billion.
  Democrats have balanced the budget before, and we will do it again 
without harming the economy. This amendment is nothing more than a 
Republican political diversion, and I urge my colleagues to vote 
  Mr. SMITH of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I yield 1\1/2\ minutes to the 
gentleman from Nebraska (Mr. Fortenberry).
  Mr. FORTENBERRY. I thank the gentleman from Texas.
  Mr. Speaker, I have long supported a balanced budget amendment to the 
Constitution, and I don't take the issue lightly of amending our 
Constitution, which has endured through strife and dramatic historical 
shifts with very few amendments. Constitutional amendments should be 
exceedingly rare, as they have the power to spur sweeping change. But I 
do believe it is necessary that the same process that guaranteed our 
hallmark freedoms of speech and religion and freedom from slavery be 
used to protect our children and future generations from economic 
  Most States, including Nebraska, have already enacted balanced budget 
requirements. My State has to live within its means. The Federal 
Government needs to do the same.
  Mr. Speaker, we are standing at history's door. We can either lead 
and be bold, making the hard decisions necessary to correct this fiscal 
trajectory, or stay in our timeworn political lanes, continuing with 
the status quo that has given our Nation this unsustainable debt 
burden. We can do something big for this country and our future and 
make deficit spending a thing of the past.
  This is a significant moment. I urge my colleagues that we pass this 
  Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to yield 2 minutes to the 
indomitable gentlelady from Illinois, Jan Schakowsky.
  Ms. SCHAKOWSKY. I rise in opposition to the balanced budget 
amendment. It was just a decade ago that President Clinton left office 
with not just a balanced budget but a surplus, and we got there by a 
one-vote margin. No Republican votes whatsoever.
  And here we are today, after 8 years and two wars and two tax cuts 
that were paid for on the credit card and mainly benefiting the wealthy 
and a devastating recession that could have been prevented had 
financial regulators not turned a blind eye to Wall Street, and now 
we're debating an amendment to the Constitution that offers anything 
but balance.
  This amendment would destroy the budget and, in the process, wipe out 
jobs and eviscerate Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, extended 
unemployment benefits, as well as education, cancer research, veterans, 
bridge repair, and food inspection. You name a program, and this 
amendment will put it at risk.
  A balanced budget amendment could force Congress to cut all programs 
by an average of 17.3 percent by 2018. This amendment would limit the 
ability of the Federal Government to respond to national crises, 
including an economic or natural disaster. It would virtually guarantee 
that recessions turn into depressions.
  This amendment will require a supermajority to raise the debt 
ceiling--a reckless requirement given how close we came to defaulting 
earlier this year when just a simple majority was required.
  And I'm really tired of hearing Republicans say, well, if States and 
families must balance their budgets, so should the Federal Government. 
The States have to balance their operating budgets, but they can still 
borrow for capital projects. And families have to manage their budgets, 
but they can do so by incurring debt, home mortgages, student loans, 
car loans, and payments for medical bills. This amendment blocks the 
Federal Government from making investments in the same way.
  And suppose in 2008, when the deficit seemed manageable, we had a 
balanced budget amendment. The effect on the economy would be 
catastrophic. If the 2012 balanced budget were balanced through 
spending cuts, those cuts, it is predicted by Macroeconomics Advisers--
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. The time of the gentlewoman has expired.
  Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Speaker, I yield the gentlelady an additional 15 
  Ms. SCHAKOWSKY. Macroeconomics, a nonpartisan forecasting firm, said 
that those cuts would throw about 15 million more people out of work, 
double the unemployment rate from 9 percent to about 18 percent, and 
cause the economy to shrink by about 17 percent instead of growing at 
an expected 17 percent. This amendment will only make the economy 

[[Page H7789]]

  Vote ``no.''
  Mr. SMITH of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I yield 2 minutes to the gentlewoman 
from Washington (Mrs. McMorris Rodgers), a member of the Republican 
  Mrs. McMORRIS RODGERS. I appreciate the gentleman yielding.
  James Madison said that the trickiest question the Constitutional 
Convention confronted was how to oblige a government to control itself. 
History records not a single nation that spent, borrowed, and taxed its 
way to prosperity, but it offers us many, many examples of nations that 
spent, borrowed, and taxed their way to economic ruin and bankruptcy.
  And history is screaming to us a warning that nations that bankrupt 
themselves aren't around very long because before you can provide for 
the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the 
blessings of liberty, you have to be able to pay for it.

                              {time}  1730

  Today I rise in strong support of the balanced budget amendment. This 
past weekend, I re-read the 1995 House Judiciary Committee report that 
accompanied the resolution that passed at that time. Incredibly, the 
same justifications put forward against the balanced budget amendment 
in 1995 are the same ones that we hear today.
  First, the report highlights a $4.7 trillion debt in 1995 and 
discusses the implications of a $200 billion interest payment. I only 
wish those were the debt levels that we are responding to today. What 
this comparison means is that we haven't corrected the government's 
spending problem on our own.
  Our debt has more than tripled and interest payments more than 
doubled in the last two decades. All we have to show over that time is 
that we have a spending problem; in fact, we have an addiction. And I 
don't see that addiction going away unless we pass H.J. Res. 2.
  Where would we be today if the balanced budget amendment had passed 
the Senate in 1997 and it had been sent to the States? I guarantee we 
would not be facing a total debt of $15 trillion or a $450 billion 
interest payment. And so we must ask ourselves where will we be 5 to 10 
years from now without a balanced budget amendment.
  I urge my colleagues to stop the cycle of overspending. Support this 
  Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Speaker, I yield 2 minutes to the former chair of 
the Progressive Caucus, Lynn Woolsey, the gentlelady from California.
  Ms. WOOLSEY. I thank the ranking member for this time.
  Earlier this year, economist Bruce Bartlett, who served in the Reagan 
and Bush administrations, had this to say about an earlier Republican 
balanced budget amendment. He said: ``It looks like it was drafted by a 
couple of interns on the back of a napkin.'' Granted, he was talking 
about a different version, but I still say that was pretty unfair to 
interns, who I think could do a lot better than this amendment that 
we're debating today.
  If the balanced budget were in place today, it would cripple the 
economy and decimate Social Security, Medicare and veterans programs, 
among many others. The austerity dogma of the Republican majority--
their balanced budget fetish--is hurting America, not helping it. We 
need more Federal dollars pumped into this economy. We need it to 
stimulate demand and to create jobs. We don't need less.
  If you get caught in a rainstorm--I mean, I wouldn't want to be 
caught in a rainstorm with anybody on the other side of the aisle 
because I'd be afraid that they'd propose a constitutional amendment 
banning umbrellas.
  Call me old fashioned, Mr. Speaker, but I think amending the 
Constitution is a pretty big deal. It should be reserved for correcting 
gross injustices and expanding fundamental rights. For decades, I've 
been among those pushing for a constitutional amendment that enshrines 
the notion that women should be treated equally. Republicans want no 
part of that, but they're eager for a constitutional amendment that 
shreds the safety net and could cause another recession for our 
country. No thanks.
  Vote ``no'' on this balanced budget amendment.
  Mr. SMITH of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I yield 2 minutes to the gentleman 
from Mississippi (Mr. Nunnelee).
  Mr. NUNNELEE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
  Before I came to this body, I chaired the appropriations committee in 
the Mississippi Senate. I worked with my counterpart in the other 
chamber, a Democrat, Chairman Johnny Stringer. We crafted three 
balanced budgets because Chairman Stringer and I shared a commitment to 
a principle that you can't spend more money than you take in.
  One thing I learned is that there are always more needs and more 
requests than there are available resources, and that fact causes you 
to have to make some difficult decisions. We made those difficult 
decisions in the Mississippi State house. In fact, there are 49 States 
that require that around the Nation. Municipal, county governments are 
making those difficult decisions. More importantly, families are making 
those decisions sitting around the kitchen table, and small businesses 
are making those decisions tonight. And if they're willing to live 
within their means, they have every reason to expect their government 
in Washington to do the same thing.
  This balanced budget amendment has been a dream of leaders in this 
body since Thomas Jefferson. Sixteen years ago we had bipartisan 
support and came within one vote of getting it adopted. I welcome the 
support of those Democrats that are stepping up and giving bipartisan 
support to this measure. We must have a balanced budget amendment to 
rein in spending so that we can create jobs.
  Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Speaker, Steny Hoyer has been working in leadership 
for many years. He is now our distinguished whip, and I recognize him 
for 5 minutes.
  Mr. HOYER. I thank the chairman for yielding.
  Mr. Speaker, in 1995 I spoke on the floor in support of a balanced 
budget amendment. That was 16 years ago. There's a lot of water over 
the bridge since that time. I said then and I quote: ``I do so because 
I believe this country confronts a critical threat caused by the 
continuation of large annual deficits.'' I believed that then, and I 
believe it now. And I have voted against tax cuts that weren't paid 
for, I have voted against Social Security benefits that weren't paid 
for, and I have voted against other items that weren't paid for. I 
stand by my 1995 statement today. However, as I've said, events in the 
last 16 years lead me to oppose today's balanced budget amendment.
  Only months after we had that debate, my Republican colleagues shut 
down the government. In 1997 we passed an amendment with bipartisan 
agreement reaffirming the 1990 agreement that we would have a PAYGO 
process in place. And without having passed a balanced budget 
amendment, we did in fact balance the budget 4 years in a row. Why? 
Because we paid for what we bought, we didn't cut revenues before we 
cut spending, and we restrained spending--4 years in a row. I tell my 
Republican friends, none of you in your lifetime has lived during the 
course of a President who had four balanced budgets. Were you partially 
responsible? Absolutely. Were we partially responsible? Absolutely. But 
what was the lesson? That we didn't need an amendment; we needed the 
will and the courage.
  Without having passed that balanced budget amendment under President 
Clinton, not only were we able to balance the budget, but we also 
achieved the only President term in the lifetime of anybody in this 
Chamber or listening to me that had 4 years of balance and a net 
surplus--hear me--a net surplus at the end of 96 months as President of 
the United States. We made it happen not with a balanced budget 
amendment, but because we had the will to do so and by following PAYGO 
  Sadly, I tell my colleagues and the American people, Mr. Speaker, 
under President Bush, Republicans exploded the deficit and abandoned 
PAYGO, along with the principle that we ought to pay for what we buy.
  We do not have a spending problem or a revenue problem; we have a 
pay-for problem. The Republican Congress spent enormous sums on two 
wars, a prescription drug program, and tax cuts without paying for 
them. If you have the courage of your convictions, you pay for things.

[[Page H7790]]

  Spending rose at a level nearly twice the inflation rate that Bill 
Clinton's rose in spending during the 8 years of the Bush 
administration when Republicans were in charge of everything for 6 
years and had a President who could veto anything that we did.
  When the financial crisis hit in 2008, President Bush told us that if 
we failed to act, there would be a high risk of depression.

                              {time}  1740

  What did the President's party do? You say you have a three-fifths 
vote if there's an emergency. President Bush told us that if we did not 
act there would be a depression and, in fact, we had a vote, and that 
vote was 205-228, with two-thirds of the President's party voting 
against the President in what he called a crisis.
  That gives me, I tell my friends on the Republican side, no 
confidence that in time of danger and crisis, that we could summons 
three-fifths vote. I believed in 1995 we could summon those votes 
because, frankly, we were a much more bipartisan and, in my opinion, 
responsible body. But I do not have that confidence today, and I am not 
prepared to take that risk.
  My party, of course, voted with President Bush because we thought 
there was a crisis. Now, a few days after that, we came back to vote, 
and we did pass it.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. The time of the gentleman has expired.
  Mr. CONYERS. I grant the gentleman 1 additional minute.
  Mr. HOYER. I tell my friends that even on the second vote, when we 
did, in fact, pass that bill that President Bush asked us to pass 
because there was a crisis, he could not summon the majority of your 
party to support him. Barely three-fifths, notwithstanding the 
President's assertion of crisis, voted to meet that crisis, with 172 
Democrats voting with President Bush in a bipartisan response to 
  Earlier this year, again, in control of the House, Republicans 
brought the government to the brink of shutdown. Over the summer we saw 
them hold the country hostage by pushing us to the brink of default, in 
the first time in my memory, the United States of America to the brink 
of default.
  I have not changed my beliefs about balancing the budget, and I 
invite all of you to vote with me on paying for things that we buy, not 
passing those costs along to my children, my grandchildren, and my two 
great grandchildren. We have shown we can do it. We balanced the budget 
for 4 years.
  Don't talk about it. Just do it. Don't refuse to pay for it. Don't 
cut taxes and increase spending.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. The time of the gentleman has again expired.
  Mr. CONYERS. I grant the gentleman 10 additional seconds.
  Mr. HOYER. Don't just preach fiscal responsibility; practice it. It 
will take no courage to vote for this amendment. But it will take 
courage to balance our budget by paying for what we buy.
  Mr. SMITH of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself 15 seconds.
  I just want to point out for the record that all of the balanced 
budgets enacted during the Clinton administration were, in fact, 
proposed by a Republican Congress. I happened to be a member of the 
Budget Committee at the time.
  Mr. Speaker, I yield 2 minutes to the gentlewoman from Michigan (Mrs. 
  Mrs. MILLER of Michigan. I thank the gentleman for yielding.
  Mr. Speaker, our Constitution is certainly the greatest governing 
document ever created by man. It's the bedrock foundation for this, the 
United States of America, the greatest nation on Earth.
  Mr. Speaker, our Founding Fathers, in their genius, provided us with 
a way to amend the Constitution to deal with a changing world. James 
Madison, who, of course, is widely seen as the Father of the 
Constitution, once said that ``A public debt is a public curse.''
  In 1995, this House passed a very similar balanced budget amendment 
to the one that we are considering today. The amendment received 300 
votes in this House, but fell just one vote short in the United States 
  Since that time, Mr. Speaker, our national debt has grown by over $9 
trillion, yes, $9 trillion, including nearly $4 trillion in new debt in 
just the last 3 years, and today the debt is over $15 trillion. And the 
fact of the matter is that our public debt has become the public curse 
of which Madison warned us.
  The American people understand that this level of debt is not 
sustainable, and that is why they overwhelmingly support this balanced 
budget amendment. Today we have a choice, Mr. Speaker. Do we answer the 
call of the American people and embrace fiscal responsibility, or do we 
continue the status quo of more spending and more borrowing and more 
  It's time for this Congress to use the tools our Founding Fathers 
gave us, Mr. Speaker, to amend the Constitution to save further 
generations from the shackles of unsustainable debt. I would urge my 
colleagues to join me in supporting this commonsense amendment to 
balance our Federal budget.
  Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Speaker, I yield 2 minutes to the distinguished 
gentleman from St. Louis, Missouri, Lacy Clay.
  Mr. CLAY. I thank my friend from Michigan for yielding.
  My Democratic colleagues have spoken, and will speak, eloquently on 
the numbers. They have, or will, correctly point to the millions of 
jobs the balanced budget amendment would certainly destroy.
  However, I want to talk about the personal impact of this 
irresponsible legislation. For example, Social Security recipients 
should not be held responsible for Congress' reckless acts. Radically 
cutting Social Security hurts Americans. Drastically cutting Medicare 
hurts Americans. Enormous cuts to Defense and Homeland Security 
measures, to food stamps, to veterans' pensions and Supplemental 
Security Income for the elderly and disabled hurts Americans. It hurts 
America and makes us less safe and secure.
  And make no mistake. This legislation requires these massive cuts. 
Some have claimed that these cuts will not be necessary under this 
legislation, or worse, that they are necessary and good. They claim 
that cutting benefits to the most vulnerable Americans is good, that 
destroying jobs, destroying lives is good.
  Mr. Speaker, it is not. It is not good. It is not good to balance the 
budget on the backs of those who can least bear the burden. It is not 
good to balance the budget by taking away from those who have so 
  This is exactly what the balanced budget amendment would do, and it 
takes away from medical care for seniors. That means more of our 
elderly unable to afford their medication, unable to get needed tests 
and treatments, and more Americans hurting.
  It destroys jobs. That means more Americans out of work, more 
Americans unable to pay their bills, and more American families 
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. The time of the gentleman has expired.
  Mr. CONYERS. I yield the gentleman an additional 15 seconds.
  Mr. CLAY. You know, Hubert Humphrey said it best. He said, ``The 
moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in 
the dawn of their life, the children; those who are in the twilight of 
their life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life, the 
sick, the needy and disabled.''
  This reckless legislation fails all tests.
  Mr. SMITH of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I yield 2 minutes to the gentlewoman 
from Washington (Ms. Herrera Beutler).
  Ms. HERRERA BEUTLER. Winston Churchill said that Americans can always 
be counted on to do the right thing after they've exhausted all other 
  What's interesting about this quote is it actually applies to this 
institution. What have we tried? We've tried billion-dollar bailouts 
for auto companies. We've tried billion-dollar bailouts for Wall Street 
fat cats, not for Main Street. We've done bailouts for automakers. 
We've thrown money at everything, and we have added so much to our 
national debt in the last 4 years.
  Republicans did it too. It doesn't make it right.
  So, are we better off than we were 4 years ago? No. In southwest 
Washington State, we still have rampant unemployment and joblessness.
  I'm no economist. I'm not the distinguished minority leader, whom I 
respect. I'm just an average American

[[Page H7791]]

that understands a very simple truth: You cannot spend more than you 
  That's all this amendment does. That's it. We're not cutting Social 
Security. We're not cutting Medicare. We would not. We're actually 
protecting those programs by saying, this Federal Government is going 
to live within the money that it takes from the taxpayers every year, 
no more, no less.

                              {time}  1750

  It's very, very simple. You don't have to be an economist to 
understand that if you spend more money than you have every year, you 
have a problem. Our problem is $15 trillion worth of backbreaking debt. 
We don't have to look much further than Europe to know that no country 
can exist under debt like this for too long. We're actually taking 
steps to protect our poor and vulnerable by putting sideboards around 
the reckless spending of this Congress.
  With this amendment, we're cutting up the credit card that is going 
to break the backs of the American people and cost us more jobs.
  I urge my colleagues to join us in solutions, and bipartisan 
solutions, that are going to bring an opportunity for America to 
prosper and succeed. A ``no'' vote is putting people under and putting 
politics above. We need to reverse that and put people before politics.
  I urge a ``yes'' vote.
  Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
  The gentlelady from Washington, I listened to her very carefully, and 
she has promulgated one of the greatest misunderstandings in this 
debate, namely, that the Social Security and Highway Trust Fund are not 
jeopardized by House Joint Resolution 2 because section 7 excludes 
repayment of debt principle from the definition of total outlays.
  Now, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the 
balanced budget amendment could result in Medicare being cut by about 
$750 billion, Social Security almost $1.2 trillion, and the veterans' 
benefits $85 billion through 2021 if cuts were spread proportionately. 
So I hope that there will be fewer and fewer of my colleagues trying to 
assure us that this bill does not jeopardize those programs. This is 
from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
  I yield 3 minutes to the distinguished member of the committee, the 
gentlelady from Texas, Sheila Jackson Lee.
  Ms. JACKSON LEE of Texas. I thank the ranking member of this 
  Many of us could spend a lot of time on educating the public on just 
what is occurring. We cherish this little book that has lasted in this 
Nation for some--more than centuries that we can count. As this 
document was written, the question was going to ask--or was asked 
whether it could last. And today, we cite the United States as the 
longest democracy holding on to a Constitution that provides us with 
the opportunity to even be here.
  But it is important to note that in order to amend the Constitution, 
the Founding Fathers were so serious about how important an action this 
would be that they indicated that there should be two-thirds votes from 
both the House and the Senate and three-quarters of our States. The 
people of the United States must likewise answer the call.
  Frankly, let me make a pronouncement. The American people will not 
answer this foolish call. They will recognize that whether it's 
supercommittees or Tea Parties and others that want to detract away 
from the reasonable approach to budgeting, which is revenue enhancement 
and serious reform, they know that the way they do their budget is 
thoughtfulness and not rushing to judgement.
  A headline on the markup of our bill in committee, though I know this 
is not, said: Sheila Jackson Lee Can't Slow Down Republican Balanced 
Budget Amendment Freight Train. That train keeps coming, and in the 
midst of it, there are bloody bodies left along the wayside.
  Our Chairman of the Federal Reserve said we really don't want to just 
cut, cut, cut. Chairman Bernanke said you need to be a little bit 
cautious about sharp cuts in every near term because of the potential 
impact on the recovery. That doesn't at all preclude, in fact, I 
believe it's entirely consistent with a longer-term program that will 
bring our budget into a sustainable position.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. The time of the gentlewoman has expired.
  Mr. CONYERS. I yield the gentlelady an additional 30 seconds.
  Ms. JACKSON LEE of Texas. I thank the gentleman.
  So for us to go this route, it means that even in a war, it is a 
complicated process of a majority vote, even beside the declaration of 
war; even in an emergency when our soldiers are needing more resources, 
we have to come to this body and stop and wait for our soldiers to get 
what their resources are. We have to stop and wait for our veterans to 
get the resources that they need.
  While veterans hospitals are closing, while centers for posttraumatic 
stress disorder are closing, we will be fiddling around and the freight 
train of the balanced budget amendment will drive over the veterans, 
the soldiers, the President who is trying to save this Nation, Homeland 
Security resources that are needed, because we wanted to be a political 
grandstanding for a balanced budget amendment.
  We balanced a budget in 1993; some suffered politically. We got the 
budget balanced in 1997; some suffered politically. But the Democrats 
knew how to do it. Let's come together. Balance the budget and ignore a 
complicated, ludicrous process that the Founding Fathers said, stop, 
wait, do the right thing; do your job, not an amendment to the 
  Mr. Speaker, I rise today in strong opposition to the rule for H.J. 
Res. 2, a ``Proposing A Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution 
of the United States.'' While I support bipartisan efforts to increase 
the debt limit and to resolve our differences over budgetary revenue 
and spending issues, I cannot support a bill that unduly constrains the 
ability of Congress to deal effectively with America's economic, 
fiscal, and job creation troubles.
  In my lifetime, I have never seen such a concerted effort to ransom 
the American economy in order to extort the American public. While I 
support bipartisan efforts to increase the debt limit and to resolve 
our differences over budgetary revenue and spending issues, I cannot 
support a bill that unduly robs average Americans of their economic 
security and ability to provide for their families while constraining 
the ability of Congress to deal effectively with America's economic, 
fiscal, and job creation troubles.
  This bill would put our national security at risk. If our nation is 
under attack or needs to respond to an imminent threat, the last person 
I would consider contacting is an accountant. I would expect that this 
body would act swiftly and this mandate takes away that ability.
  We need to change the tone here in Congress. Federal Reserve Chairman 
Ben Bernanke said it best when he stated recently before the House 
Committee on Financial Services. ``We really don't want to just cut, 
cut, cut,'' Chairman Bernanke further stated ``You need to be a little 
bit cautious about sharp cuts in the very near term because of the 
potential impact on the recovery. That doesn't at all preclude--in 
fact, I believe it's entirely consistent with--a longer-term program 
that will bring our budget into a sustainable position.''


  I am outraged to find that revisions to this legislation include a 
provision that will hurt our veterans and military families and 
seriously compromise our ability to combat terrorism. As a senior 
member of the Homeland Security Committee, I am deeply concerned about 
any measure that undermines the men and women of the Armed Forces or 
the safety and security of the American people.
  The Department of Defense, DOD, has already agreed to cut its budget 
by $450 billion over the next ten years. The Center for Strategic and 
International Studies predicts that further budget reductions, 
including those that would stem from a balanced budget amendment, will 
cause substantive modification to our defense strategy, capabilities 
and force structure.
  Enacting a balanced budget requirement would severely limit the 
ability of the Armed Forces to procure the equipment necessary to keep 
our troops safe, and prepare them for potential combat. A balanced 
budget amendment would dramatically constrain discretionary budgets, so 
much so that procurement, research and development, and the acquisition 
of new technologies would have to be zeroed out of the DOD budget.
  These deep cuts to research and development and procurement would 
threaten the safety of the men and women of the Armed Forces. For 
example, the constraints caused by a balanced budget amendment would 
seriously endanger the Marine Corps' V-22 Osprey program, as well as 
the intended order of

[[Page H7792]]

340 F-35B Joint Strike Fighters. The effects of a balanced budget 
amendment would hinder the Navy's planned expansion from 287 to 320 
  This bill will deeply impact the Defense Industrial Base, DIB, a 
group of companies and contractors that supply equipment and technology 
to the Armed Forces. The budget reductions caused by a balanced budget 
amendment would deeply impact modernization and procurement. In fact, 
Army Secretary John McHugh recently said that to facilitate any further 
budget cuts, ``you'd probably have to take some 50% out of 
  The DIB has resulted in the development of the most advanced military 
force the world has ever seen. However, large cuts in procurement 
funding would seriously compromise our ability to develop some 
essential future capabilities. Moreover, the downsizing that a balanced 
budget requires would leave a large number of highly skilled and 
professional workers unemployed in an economy unlikely to absorb them 
for quite some time.
  Passing this legislation will not, as many of my colleagues on the 
other side of the aisle believe, result in a more stable budget. An 
amendment requiring a balanced budget will render discretionary 
budgets, particularly the DOD and national security budgets, much less 
predictable. The Departments of State, Defense and Homeland Security 
will have to compete for their shares of the national security budget, 
and furthermore, a likely response to a balanced budget amendment will 
be an increased reliance on emergency, ad hoc appropriations.
  A provision of H.J. Res. 2 requires legislation to spend money that 
will take the budget out of balance due to a military conflict or 
national security need. As it stands, this bill will require a Joint 
Resolution from both houses of Congress with the specific dollar amount 
being spent.
  In order to spend more than has been appropriated, agencies tasked 
with defense and national security will need approval from Congress. 
This increased reliance on emergency appropriations will have 
detrimental effects on the sound functioning of our defense and 
national security institutions. The more these institutions are forced 
to rely on emergency funding, the more unpredictable their budgets will 
  This legislation would allow a military conflict or threat to 
national security to take the budget out of balance. However, in order 
to authorize additional funds for military engagement or threats to 
national security that require action, Congress would need to pass 
legislation citing a specific dollar amount.
  As a senior member of the Homeland Security Committee, I know that 
the threats against the nation are constantly changing and ever 
present. We cannot ask those responsible for protecting this nation to 
ask Congress for a specific amount of money every time there is a 
threat to our national security that requires action. Should we ever 
experience another attack on American soil, we cannot expect out first 
responders to wait for authorization before intervening.
  Mr. Speaker, I am incredibly disheartened to see my colleagues on the 
other side of the aisle champion this legislation, legislation that has 
so many negative impacts on our veterans and military families. The 
permanent budget cuts necessitated by a balance budget amendment would 
require the DOD to drastically curtail the number of active duty 
service members, retirement benefits, and health care benefits for 
veterans and military families.
  There are currently 22.6 million veterans living in the United 
States, and all of them deserve the retirement and health care benefits 
that were promised to them. In my home State of Texas we have nearly 
1.7 million veterans, and 18th District is home to 32,000 of them. Of 
the 200,000 veterans of military service who live and work in Houston; 
more than 13,000 are veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan. We should 
not compromise the benefits for one of these patriotic Americans with 
this harmful legislation.
  There has been a theme this Congress of focusing on cutting programs 
that benefit the public good and for the most at need, while ignoring 
the need to focus on job creation and economic recovery. Debate of this 
balanced budget amendment is wasting a tremendous amount of time when 
we should be focused on paying our nation's bills and resolving our 
  As I mentioned, a balanced budget is not something that should be 
mandated in our Constitution, nor something that should be 
automatically be required every year. In particular, during economic 
downturns, the government can stimulate growth by cutting taxes and 
increasing spending. And in fact, the cost of many government benefit 
programs is designed to automatically increase when the economy is 
down--for example, costs for food stamps, SNAP, and Medicaid increase 
when more people need to rely upon them.
  These countercyclical measures lessen the impact of job losses and 
economic hardship associated with economic downturns. The resulting 
temporary increases in spending could cause deficits that would trigger 
the balanced budget requirements at the worst possible moment.
  A constitutional amendment requiring Congress to cut spending to 
match revenue every year would both limit Congress's ability to respond 
to changing fiscal conditions and would dramatically impede federal 
responses to high unemployment as well as federal guarantees for food 
and medical assistance.
  H.J. Res. 2 would amend the Constitution to require Congress to 
balance the budget each year. It would also impose new procedural 
hurdles to raising the debt ceiling, and require the President to 
submit a balanced budget each year.
  The thresholds proposed in H.J. Res. 2 are completely unrealistic. 
Even during Ronald Reagan's presidency--before the baby boomers had 
reached retirement age, swelling the population eligible for Social 
Security and Medicare, when health care costs were much lower--federal 
spending averaged 22 percent of GDP. This would impose arbitrary limits 
on government actions to respond to an economic slowdown or recession.
  Cutting spending during a recession could make the recession worse by 
increasing the number of unemployed, decreasing business investment, 
and withholding services needed to jump-start the economy. As written, 
this bill would render Social Security unconstitutional in its current 
form. By capping future spending below Reagan-era levels would force 
devastating cuts to Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, Head Start, 
child care, Pell grants, and many other critical programs.
  Only five years in the last fifty has the Federal Government posted 
an annual budget surplus; all other years the government has been in 
deficit. Even the House-passed Republican budget resolution, which 
requires immediate and sustained drastic spending cuts, never reaches 
balance in the ten-year window required by H.J. Res. 2--indeed, it is 
not projected to be balanced for several decades, only reaching balance 
by 2040.
  Because this proposal makes it so much harder for Congress to 
increase revenues than to cut spending, it in essence forces the 
President to match those same restrictions in his budget. In other 
words, H.J. Res. 2 is a political ploy designed to force the President 
to submit a budget that reflects the Republican priorities of ending 
the Medicare guarantee while cutting taxes for millionaires.

                       SOCIAL SECURITY & MEDICARE

  According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, H.J. Res. 
2's balanced budget requirement could result in Medicare being cut by 
nearly $750 billion, Social Security almost $1.2 trillion, and 
veterans' benefits $85 billion, through 2021 assuming that the spending 
cuts would be distributed evenly across the government. These cuts 
would devastate millions of seniors, veterans, children and the 
  These cut would have a devastating effect on the millions of aged, 
disabled, veterans, children, and others who depend on Social Security. 
The BBA would have the foreseeable effect of plunging millions of 
Social Security beneficiaries into poverty and making for a very bleak 
future for most others. Over two-thirds of seniors and 70 percent of 
people with disabilities depend on Social Security for half or more of 
their income. Close to half--47 percent--of all single (i.e., widowed, 
divorced, or never-married) women over age 65 rely on Social Security 
for 90 percent or more of their income.
  Seniors are spending more on their health care costs, and Americans 
in general are making less. The face of poverty is a child's face. If a 
private employer attempted to do what is being asked of us here today, 
which would be to use their pension plans in a manner that H.J. Res 2 
would deal with Social Security that would be against the law.
  Furthermore, the need to raise the debt ceiling has no correlation to 
whether future budgets are balanced; increases in the debt ceiling 
reflect past decisions on fiscal policy. And as demonstrated by this 
year's current disagreement about whether and when to raise the debt 
ceiling, Congress does not need to impose further barriers to its 
consideration. Treasury has warned that failing to raise the debt 
ceiling and the resulting government default, which would be 
unprecedented, could have catastrophic impacts on the economy. Interest 
rates would rise, increasing costs for the government and potentially 
on American businesses and families.
  Any cuts made to accommodate a mandated balanced budget would fall 
most heavily on domestic discretionary programs; the immediate result 
of a balanced budget amendment would be devastating cuts in education, 
homeland security, public safety, health care and research, 
transportation and other vital services.
  The Founders purposely made the Constitutional amendment process a 
long and arduous one. Having a Constitutional balanced budget amendment 
is not a novel idea. Balanced

[[Page H7793]]

budget amendments have made it to a floor vote in the Senate five 
times, and in the House four times, according to CRS. The Senate barely 
passed a version in 1982, but it failed to gain the necessary two-
thirds majority in the House. The House passed a version in 1995, but 
it failed in the Senate.
  Do my Republican colleagues really expect Congress to capriciously 
pass an amendment altering our Nation's founding document on such short 
notice; an amendment that will fundamentally change our country without 
reasonable time for debate; without the opportunity for a hearing or 
questioning of witnesses; without any reports as to what impact it may 
  By tying the fate of whether the United States pays its debt 
obligations to the historically prolonged Constitutional amendment 
process, the Republicans who support this bill have demonstrated, at 
this critical juncture in American history, that they are profoundly 
irresponsible when it comes to the integrity of our economy and utterly 
bereft of sensible solutions for fixing it.

                      Potential Impact on Medicare

  Medicare covers a population with diverse needs and circumstances. 
Most people with Medicare live on modest incomes. While many 
beneficiaries enjoy good health, 25 percent or more have serious health 
problems and live with multiple chronic conditions, including cognitive 
and functional impairments.
  Today, 43 percent of all Medicare beneficiaries are between 65 and 74 
years old and 12 percent are 85 or older. Those who are 85 or older are 
the fastest-growing age group among elderly Medicare beneficiaries. 
With the aging and growth of the population, the number of Medicare 
beneficiaries more than doubled between 1966 and 2000 and is projected 
to grow from 45 million today to 79 million in 2030.


  We are constantly discussing cutting the budget, reducing our debt. 
Any yet, there has not been a single strong job creating measure 
purported by my Republican colleagues. Instead time and again there is 
legislation brought before this body to delay having a real debate on 
job creation. The poorest among us are being asked to bare the brunt of 
this legislation; cuts to Medicare, cuts Social Security . . . Who do 
you think these programs serve? We would be asking the poor to pay more 
for health insurance, to pay more for medical expenses, to pay more for 
housing. I ask my colleagues a simple question.
  Currently more Americans are in need of jobs than jobs are available. 
Without focusing on creating jobs and advocating for job growth, what 
will happen to those individuals who are unable to find work, are 
seniors, are disabled, are children? What about veterans who find their 
pensions cut? When all these cuts to essential and vital programs occur 
in order to support this proposed constitutional mandate, what will 
happen to these individuals--how will they pay housing, health, and 
basic life necessities come from?
  I am, as we all are, deeply troubled by the report issued by the U.S. 
Census Bureau. One of every six Americans are living in poverty, 
totaling 46.2 million people, this highest number in 17 years. In a 
country with so many resources, there is no excuse for this staggering 
level of poverty.
  Children represent a disproportionate amount of the United States 
poor population. In 2008, there were 15.45 million impoverished 
children in the Nation, 20.7 percent of America's youth. The Kaiser 
Family Foundation estimates that there are currently 5.6 million Texans 
living in poverty, 2.2 million of them children, and that 17.4 percent 
of households in the state struggle with food insecurity.
  In my district, the Texas 18th, more than 190,000 people live below 
the poverty line. We must not, we cannot, at a time when the Census 
Bureau places the number of American living in poverty at the highest 
rate in over 17 years, cut vital social services. Not in the wake of 
the 2008 financial crisis and persistent unemployment, when so many 
rely on federal benefits to survive, like the Supplemental Nutrition 
Access Program, SNAP, that fed 3.9 million residents of Texas in April 
2011, or the Women, Infants, and Children, WIC, Program that provides 
nutritious food to more than 990,000 mothers and children in my home 
  The Census Bureau also reported there are 49.9 million people in this 
country without health insurance. This is an absolute injustice that 
must be addressed. We can no longer ignore the fact that nearly 50 
million Americans, many of them children, have no health insurance.
  Texas has the largest uninsured population in the country; 24.6 
percent of Texans do not have health care coverage. This includes 1.3 
million children in the state of Texas alone who do not have health 
insurance, or access to the health care they need.
  It is unconscionable that, despite egregiously high poverty rates, 
Republicans seek to reduce spending by cutting social programs that 
provide food and health care instead of raising taxes on the wealthiest 
in the Nation, or closing corporate tax loopholes.
  Balanced budget amendments have made it to a floor vote in the Senate 
five times, and in the House four times, according to CRS. The Senate 
passed a version in 1982, but it failed to gain the necessary two-
thirds majority in the House. The House passed a version in 1995, but 
it failed in the Senate.
  Mr. SMITH of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I yield 2 minutes to the gentleman 
from Colorado (Mr. Coffman).
  Mr. COFFMAN of Colorado. Mr. Speaker, I've had the honor of serving 
in both the Army and the Marine Corps, five overseas deployments, two 
of them in combat.
  What has really struck me since I've been in the Congress of the 
United States and had the honor, as well, to serve on the Armed 
Services Committee is testimony by former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs 
of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, who said the greatest threat to the 
United States is our national debt. He didn't say it was al Qaeda. He 
didn't say it was some foreign power of terrorists. He said the 
greatest threat to the United States is right here. The greatest threat 
to the United States are the decades of out-of-control spending by the 
Congress of the United States that is bringing down this country.
  We have an opportunity today to change that. We have an opportunity 
today to put the discipline in place that we are not going to go down 
the path of Greece.
  I would ask the Members of this body to show the same courage and 
determination that the young men and women show who serve our country 
in defense of our freedom every day, to do the right thing and to vote 
for a balanced budget amendment to the United States Constitution.
  If not now, when? Let us vote for this. Let us put this country down 
the right track. And let us not be the greatest threat to the United 
  Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Speaker, I yield 2 minutes to the distinguished 
gentleman from Oregon, Earl Blumenauer.
  Mr. BLUMENAUER. I appreciate my friend for the courtesy of permitting 
me to speak on this.
  I am here in honor of the memory of the late, and I think great, 
United States Senator from Oregon, Republican Mark Hatfield.
  When the balanced budget amendment freight train was moving through 
Congress in 1995 and a number of people piled on, it passed here 
overwhelmingly, but it failed in the United States Senate by one vote. 
The only Republican who voted ``no'' was Senator Mark Hatfield, who was 
chair of the Appropriations Committee. He was visited repeatedly by 
some of the most ardent proponents of a, quote, balanced budget 
amendment importuning him for special treatment.

                              {time}  1800

  Senator Hatfield understood that, had that balanced budget amendment 
been approved, it would have been an excuse for people to feel like 
they'd done their job and that they could go about continuing business 
as usual. He took a lot of heat. He, in fact, offered his resignation 
to Bob Dole, which would have reduced the number of Senators, and the 
balanced budget amendment would have passed.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. The time of the gentleman has expired.
  Mr. CONYERS. I yield the gentleman an additional 30 seconds.
  Mr. BLUMENAUER. But Senator Hatfield understood that that was wrong. 
He voted against it. It failed.
  And what happened?
  We were able to move forward under a Democratic administration to be 
able to rein in spending. We balanced the budget for 4 consecutive 
years. What happened was, when the Republicans took over, restraint was 
lost; deficits skyrocketed; and they put in place tax-cut and spending 
policies that drive the deficit to this day.
  Reject this phony solution. Stand up. Provide a balance of increased 
revenues and program cuts. Don't pretend something that you're not 
doing and that's not enforceable as an excuse to avoid our 
  Mr. SMITH of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I yield 2 minutes to a member of the 
Armed Services Committee, the gentleman from Tennessee (Mr. Cooper).
  Mr. COOPER. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mike Mullen, 

[[Page H7794]]

that our worst enemy was not any foreign power or al Qaeda--rather, 
that it's our own national debt. That's right. It's official now. 
Congress has become basically America's worst enemy.
  I wish we would take it upon ourselves to cut spending and to balance 
budgets. We are failing in doing that, and we have failed repeatedly. I 
wish the supercommittee would come up with a super solution. That does 
not look likely.
  I regret that we are at the stage now where we need a balanced budget 
amendment, and I regret that we're at the stage of partisanship when, 
just 10 years ago, 72 Democrats voted for this, including two out of 
the three top members of our leadership.
  We've got to live within our means. The Nation's future is at stake. 
It's sad that we have become so lame that we need this crutch, but we 
need it. America's overspending--our obesity in this body--is so great 
that we have become America's greatest obesity problem. The balanced 
budget amendment is the right diet.
  Mr. SMITH of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that the 
gentleman from Virginia (Mr. Goodlatte) control the remainder of my 
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the 
gentleman from Texas?
  There was no objection.
  Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Speaker, I yield 2 minutes to the distinguished 
gentleman from Illinois, Danny Davis.
  Mr. DAVIS of Illinois. A balanced budget amendment to the 
Constitution represents bad economics and bad social policy. The 
ability to borrow to help our States and citizens is a critical tool to 
aid our Nation during economic crisis.
  One of the most egregious consequences of this bill is the dangerous 
cuts to Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, and other safety net 
programs that would result. Given the vast deficit that exists due to 
reckless tax cuts for the wealthy, this bill would achieve balance on 
the backs of the elderly, the poor, and the disabled.
  To achieve balance in the short term, massive reductions to critical 
safety net programs would have to occur--$750 billion in cuts from 
Medicare, $1.2 trillion from Social Security, and $85 billion from 
veterans' benefits through 2021. Dramatic cuts to other safety net 
protections for citizens, such as food stamps and supplemental security 
income for the disabled, poor, and the elderly, would almost certainly 
  To add insult to injury, nonpartisan economists with Macroeconomic 
Advisers estimate that a balanced budget amendment would eliminate 15 
million jobs, increase unemployment to 18 percent, and shrink the 
economy by 17 percent--catastrophic economic losses at the same time 
that Federal safety programs to support citizens experiencing such 
hardships are eviscerated.
  This is a terrible piece of legislation. It's a bad bill. I could 
not, would not, and I don't think anybody should vote for it.
  Mr. GOODLATTE. Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to yield 1\1/2\ minutes 
to the gentleman from South Carolina (Mr. Duncan), a member of the 
Natural Resources Committee.
  Mr. DUNCAN of South Carolina. I simply ask: Are you better off today 
than you were $4 trillion ago?
  I say not.
  Mr. Speaker, I come to the floor today to discuss the most important 
issue that we will take up this year, and that is a balanced budget 
amendment to the United States Constitution.
  For much too long, Congress has allowed mountains of debt to pile 
upon our children and our grandchildren. We are in debt to the tune of 
$15 trillion, and we continue to spend each year in excess of $1 
trillion more than we are bringing in.
  In the short time that I have been a Member of Congress, it is 
evident to me that Washington will never voluntarily make the 
significant cuts to spending. That's why we need to pass a balanced 
budget amendment, which would force Washington to do what families and 
small businesses do each and every year: live within their means and 
stop the spending insanity. It's common sense not spending more than 
you have; but maybe that's too simple for those who gain some sort of 
power by providing services that our Nation cannot afford and by 
spending money that we don't have.
  A balanced budget amendment: the right bill at the right time for 
America to regain control of its finances.
  Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Speaker, I yield 2 minutes to the distinguished 
gentleman from New Jersey, Rob Andrews.
  (Mr. ANDREWS asked and was given permission to revise and extend his 
  Mr. ANDREWS. Mr. Speaker, when Congress doesn't want to do something, 
it forms a committee. We tried, and that doesn't appear to be working. 
Then when it doesn't want to do something, it kicks the can down the 
road and sets up a process where somebody else does the hard thing. 
That's what we're doing here tonight.
  If you want to balance the budget, then vote to tell the Federal-
operating Departments to do with 5 or 10 percent less money than they 
got last year. I'm prepared to do that.
  If you want to balance the budget, then save money in the Medicare 
program by saying Medicare can negotiate prices of prescription drugs 
the way the VA does, and save billions of dollars on prescription 
costs. I'm prepared to do that.
  If you want to balance the budget, bring the troops home from 
Afghanistan sooner. Since we have the ability to blow up the world 24 
times, let's not pay for weapons that blow it up a 25th time. Let's not 
have 90,000 troops in Europe and Korea who are defending against an 
enemy that largely doesn't exist anymore.
  If you want to balance the budget, then vote to tell the hedge fund 
managers and all of these other people who are making all this money 
that maybe they should just pay a little bit more in taxes into the 
Federal Treasury.
  All the heartfelt, pious speeches tonight won't save $1, but the 
things I just talked about would. They're difficult; they're 
controversial; but they're real. So let's not fool the American public 
that some process that somebody else someday might follow will balance 
the budget. If you want to balance the budget, vote to cut spending. 
You may have ways that I didn't outline. I'd like to hear them. If you 
want to balance the budget, then vote for some people who can afford to 
pay more.
  Do something real.
  That will create the balanced budget, the confidence, and the jobs 
the American people need--not just another empty, hollow, meaningless 
political debate. The right action is to balance the budget, and the 
right vote on this bill is ``no.''

                              {time}  1810

  Mr. GOODLATTE. Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to yield 2 minutes to the 
distinguished gentleman from North Carolina (Mr. McIntyre), the ranking 
member of the Seapower Subcommittee of the Armed Services Committee.
  Mr. McINTYRE. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of H.J. Res. 2, a 
balanced budget constitutional amendment. With the national debt 
topping more than $15 trillion, it is critical that we pass this 
important legislation to improve our Nation's economic health and 
national security.
  Mr. Speaker, $48,570, that's the price we're putting on the head of 
every American, the portion that every man, woman, and child owes today 
to pay off our Nation's skyrocketing Federal debt. It's often said that 
our children and future generations will pay for the choices we make 
today. But the truth is that we're incurring debt at such a rapid pace 
that we'll begin to pay that price sooner than expected. We'll pay now 
as well as later. As public debt continues to grow, including borrowing 
from foreign nations such as China, interest costs alone are soaring 
into the stratosphere. Our economy, our military strength, and the 
opportunity for future growth are at risk if this problem is not 
addressed more quickly. That's why I will stand here today to support 
H.J. Res. 2, a balanced budget amendment.
  Since first coming to Washington in 1997, I have cosponsored 
legislation that would adopt a balanced budget amendment to the 
Constitution. This critical legislation would require the Federal 
Government to balance its budget like most States are required to do. 
In fact, 49 of the 50 States have some form of a balanced budget 
requirement. So this is not something

[[Page H7795]]

novel or unusual. It's something that makes sense. My home State of 
North Carolina has one of the most stringent requirements to do so.
  Let's stand together today for common sense. Let's send a message to 
the American people that we can keep our fiscal house in order, that we 
can balance our budget, and we can do the right thing with the American 
taxpayers' dollars to put our Nation on a path of economic strength and 
  Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to yield 3 minutes to another 
gentleman from North Carolina, David Price.
  (Mr. PRICE of North Carolina asked and was given permission to revise 
and extend his remarks.)
  Mr. PRICE of North Carolina. Mr. Speaker, I rise to oppose the Tea 
Party Caucus' latest misguided attempt to derail Federal fiscal and 
economic policy.
  I understand the appeal of a simple, sound bite-friendly solution to 
all that ails us. In fact, some people think that balancing the budget 
is just a matter of cutting foreign aid and converting to a flat income 
tax. Many of our colleagues have stoked such nonsense and similar 
claims that are mathematically impossible. They know very well that 
balancing the budget through cuts alone would require eliminating every 
penny of discretionary spending, including the entire Department of 
Defense. I don't believe that's really what they want.
  Why, then, would they vote for this amendment? Well, there is no real 
risk in establishing a constitutional requirement that can't be 
enforced. It would likely never, ever produce a balanced budget. In 
fact, it would make balance harder to achieve. It does absolutely 
nothing to create jobs or strengthen the economy, and it would put 
Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid in real jeopardy. But in the 
short term, proponents are counting on a political payoff. They will be 
brandishing their ``aye'' vote as proof that they're the most fiscally 
responsible folks in the land. In fact, these emperors have no clothes.
  Many of my colleagues seem to have forgotten this, but we balanced 
the budget once before, not so long ago. It started with the bipartisan 
vote in 1990 and the subsequent vote by Democrats alone in 1993. Our 
country not only had a balanced budget, we ran 4 years with surpluses. 
And we did it without a balanced budget amendment. In fact, if the 
amendment we're considering tonight had been in place then, these 
critical agreements would have failed!
  The other lesson of the 1990s is that the best cure for budget 
deficits is a healthy economy. Here, too, the so-called balanced budget 
amendment would actually make things worse, tying our hands during 
periods of economic downturn or high unemployment, locking in 
recessions and making them deeper.
  Mr. Speaker, in earlier years, we had some true fiscal conservatives 
in this body. They knew that raising the revenue needed to invest in 
our people and secure our economic success was a lot wiser than drawing 
ideological lines in the sand. They didn't need a balanced budget 
amendment to take tough votes, to make compromises, or to stand up for 
the future of our Nation in the face of uncompromising ``pledges'' 
demanded by some group or another.
  As we watch the ``supercommittee'' on the brink of failure, I don't 
know what further proof we need that there isn't a silver bullet in the 
fight for fiscal security. The real answer--and I believe colleagues 
know this very well--isn't a matter of gimmickry; it's about mustering 
the political will to do the right thing. I understand it's hard to 
revolt against King Norquist. But any Tea Party worth of its name ought 
to be prepared to challenge the monarchy, not to do its bidding. I urge 
my colleagues to vote against this amendment.
  Mr. GOODLATTE. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself 15 seconds to say that the 
last time that the Congress balanced a budget with a Democratic 
controlled Congress was 1969, more than 42 years ago.
  At this time, it is my pleasure to yield 2 minutes to the gentleman 
from Michigan (Mr. McCotter), a member of the Financial Services 
  Mr. McCOTTER. I thank the gentleman from Virginia.
  I would like to take a quick second to add that in 1969, the 
Democratic Congress had a Republican President to help them do it.
  I rise in support of a constitutional balanced budget amendment. In 
this debate, we have heard that Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid 
will be doomed by a balanced budget amendment. But if we do nothing, 
those entitlement programs will continue to be doomed by today's fiscal 
implosion. We have heard that tax hikes will somehow manage to balance 
the budget all by themselves. But we've heard this talk before, and 
after all the tax hikes of the past, today we face a fiscal implosion.
  We have heard that there was a brief glowing era when a Democratic 
President and a Republican Congress managed to balance the budget. That 
is the exception that proves the necessity of a balanced budget 
amendment because, again, today we are fiscally imploding.
  We have heard the differences between how families borrow and how the 
government borrows, and these are absolutely accurate. When a family 
borrows money, it is personally liable for that debt. It must 
prioritize its finances and pay it back with its own money. But today 
we are fiscally imploding because Big Government is not personally 
liable for that debt. It does not prioritize, and it can't even pay it 
back with other people's money.
  What is the solution? I believe that Big Government is addicted to 
spending, so we must turn it over to a higher power called the United 
States Constitution. Only in this way, when Congress spends your money, 
will you be allowed in the room to sit over their shoulder and say 
``no,'' because as we know, today's fiscal implosion is here. And under 
statutory limitations, the Congress has not been able to balance your 
budget. Go to the highest law of the land, force them to live within 
your means, and ensure that the doom and gloom we hear about being able 
to spend less money to help America actually occurs.
  Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to yield 2 minutes to the 
distinguished gentlelady from Oakland, California, Barbara Lee.
  Ms. LEE of California. I want to thank the gentleman for yielding and 
for continuing to fight the good fight on behalf of the American 
  Many of my Republican colleagues have come to the floor to keep 
telling us that the Federal Government must balance the budget, just 
like every American family. Well, it sounds like it makes sense to me, 
but it's nonsense. How would those families and businesses feel about 
Congress passing a constitutional amendment making it illegal to borrow 
money to invest in their futures? What if they could not get a mortgage 
to buy a house? What if they could not get credit to buy a car or get a 
credit card just to buy some clothes? What if they could not get a loan 
to grow their businesses? That's what this fundamental change to 
America's Constitution would do to the entire country. Can you imagine 
opening up the Constitution to make it impossible for people to invest 
in their future?
  In addition, millions of families across America are taking in less 
income than they need to survive because of failed Republican economic 
policies that drove our economy into the ditch. Why would you now want 
to balance the budget on the backs of these people--seniors, the poor, 
our children, the most vulnerable? Now that people need a helping hand, 
Republicans want to tie the hands of government and restrict our budget 
so that exactly when Americans need more, you want to hurt them more.

                              {time}  1820

  This is really a moral disgrace. Let's stop wasting time on 
ridiculous efforts to amend our Constitution when millions of Americans 
need jobs now. Let's stop wasting time keeping campaign promises to 
Republican Tea Party supporters and pass real legislation that will 
create jobs like the American Jobs Act. Let's stop wasting time when 
nearly 50 million Americans--mind you, 50 million--in the richest and 
most powerful country in the world are living in poverty.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. The time of the gentlewoman has expired.
  Mr. CONYERS. I yield the gentlelady an additional 30 seconds.
  Ms. LEE of California. Thank you very much for the 30 seconds, and I 

[[Page H7796]]

want to remind us all that 50 million Americans are living in poverty 
in the wealthiest and most powerful country in the world. And millions 
of job seekers are about to lose their unemployment benefits.
  We do not need to radically alter our Nation's founding document to 
do what is right. We just have to take a balanced approach to reducing 
our deficits and balancing our budgets, and you do this by creating 
  So let the unwise Bush tax cuts expire, end the wars, cut the bloated 
and wasteful Pentagon spending, and protect the social safety net that 
protects millions of Americans.
  Mr. GOODLATTE. Mr. Speaker, it is my distinct pleasure to yield 4 
minutes to the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Hensarling), the chairman of 
the House Republican Conference.
  Mr. HENSARLING. I thank the gentleman for yielding, and I thank him 
for his leadership on the balanced budget amendment.
  Mr. Speaker, since the President was elected, our Nation has now seen 
its first trillion-dollar deficit, its second trillion-dollar deficit, 
and its third trillion-dollar deficit. The President and the previous 
Congress have been on a spending spree the likes of which this Nation 
has never seen before. And yesterday, Americans were greeted with the 
news that our national debt has now topped $15 trillion--$128,000 for 
every household. We are borrowing almost 40 cents on the dollar, much 
of it from the Chinese, and sending the bill to our children and 
grandchildren. In short, there is a debt crisis. The debt is not just 
unsustainable, it is immoral.
  And the American people know that it's because Washington spends too 
much, not because they are undertaxed. The problem is on the spending 
side. Now, taxes are temporarily down due to the economy, but they're 
going to come back. It is spending that is exploding from 20 percent of 
our economy to 40 percent over the course of the next generation. If 
that's solved on the taxing side, we'd be the most highly taxed 
industrialized nation in the world.
  Now, the crisis should be solved on the spending side of the 
equation. I wish we were debating a spending limit amendment to the 
Constitution. We're not. We had no takers. I know of no takers on the 
other side of the aisle. So we're debating what is known as the classic 
balanced budget, the jump ball balanced budget, the clean balanced 
budget; equal opportunities for spending restraint and tax increases. 
Now, it's not my preferred policy; yet so many Democrats, Mr. Speaker, 
will come to the floor and say we need a balanced approach. But the 
question is: How many believe we need a balanced budget?
  Now, we all agree that amending the Constitution is something that 
should be taken with great reverence, with great deliberation. It is a 
sacred responsibility.
  Mr. Speaker, we know that our Founding Fathers set up a process by 
which to amend the Constitution, and no less of a Founding Father than 
Thomas Jefferson said: ``I wish it were possible to obtain a single 
amendment to our Constitution. I would be willing to depend on that 
alone for the reduction of the administration of our government; I mean 
an additional article taking from the Federal Government the power of 
  Forty-nine of 50 States have some form of balanced budget 
requirement. Every family in America has to balance their budget. Every 
small business. Should we expect anything less from a great nation?
  Sixteen years ago was the last opportunity we had in the United 
States Congress to vote on a balanced budget. We came within one vote, 
one vote in the United States Senate. Imagine where we would be today 
had that one vote made the difference and we had this amendment. It's 
  I can tell you, Republicans and Democrats can't seem to agree on 
spending. We can't seem to agree on taxes. But as Americans, can't we 
at least agree it's past time, past time to stop mortgaging our 
children's future and bankrupting the greatest Nation in the history of 
the world?
  There is a real crisis, and to paraphrase Winston Churchill: Haven't 
we now exhausted every other possibility? Isn't it finally time to do 
the right thing?
  Amend the Constitution, save the country, balance the budget.
  Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself 5 seconds.
  I hope that those words will help us in the supercommittee that the 
gentleman from Mississippi is working on night and day.
  I now yield 5 minutes to the distinguished gentleman from Virginia, 
Bobby Scott, the former subcommittee chair of the Crime Subcommittee 
and a former member of the Budget Committee.
  Mr. SCOTT of Virginia. Mr. Speaker, the supporters of this 
legislation have spoken at length about how nice it would be to balance 
the budget and how dangerous deficits are. The speeches, there are 
great speeches about the budget, but the one thing they have not talked 
about is how the provisions of this legislation will actually help 
balance the budget.
  Now, we had a hearing earlier this month where the former Governor of 
Pennsylvania talked about the Pennsylvania balanced budget amendment 
and how their constitutional provision was such a good thing; but he 
had to acknowledge that other than the title, there is nothing in H.J. 
Res. 2 that can be found in the Pennsylvania Constitution.
  We also found that the gentleman from Arizona had to acknowledge, 
after he talked about how good the balanced budget amendment works in 
Arizona, that Arizona was able to balance its budget only because 
federally borrowed stimulus money provided $6 billion to Arizona; 
$1,000 for every man, woman, and child in that State. And that wasn't 
enough. Arizona had to sell their State capitol and supreme court 
building. That's right, sold their State capitol and supreme court 
building and leased it back in order to achieve about a billion dollars 
worth of cash needed that year.
  So we should be looking at the provisions of the legislation, not 
just talking about how nice it is to balance the budget.
  One of the provisions is a three-fifths vote to increase the debt 
ceiling. Last August, the United States lost its AAA credit rating 
because it looked like we were not going to be able to achieve a simple 
majority. We should explain how it makes a lot of sense to make that 
spectacle an annual affair. I think most people would think it would be 
fiscally irresponsible to enact that provision.
  Another provision is a three-fifths vote to pass a budget that's not 
balanced in a given year. That would cover every budget we considered 
this year, including the strongest deficit reduction plan, because 
those budgets are not balanced in the first year.
  Now, strong deficit reduction is politically difficult because we're 
talking about arithmetic. You have to raise taxes and/or cut spending. 
Now, you can't get a simple majority; we can't even get a simple 
majority to do that, so why would anyone think that this legislation 
requiring a three-fifths vote would make it any easier. In fact, that 
same three-fifths vote will be sufficient to pass new tax cuts and 
additional spending, making the deficit worse. Last December we passed 
an $800 billion tax cut. We got three-fifths for that. But instead of 
discussing just the title of the resolution, we should be noticing that 
if this legislation were in effect in 1993, we never would have passed 
that budget.
  We've heard people on the other side of the aisle taking credit for 
the hard work. I came in in 1993, and we passed a tough budget. There 
were tough votes. Fifty Democrats lost their seats as a direct result 
of those votes. The deficit was $290 billion at that time. In 1995 when 
the Republicans came in, they passed their little budgets; and rather 
than sign those budgets, President Clinton let the government get shut 
down rather than sign those budgets. If they want to take credit, they 
can take credit for President Clinton vetoing their budgets and 
shutting down the government.

                              {time}  1830

  In 1997, the deficit had gone from 290 down to less than 25 billion, 
and there were no tough votes on that. The budget was on the way to 
balancing itself if we hadn't done anything, and so we find out what 
would have happened if President Clinton hadn't capitulated in 1995.

[[Page H7797]]

  In 2001, when the Republicans came in with a Republican President and 
a Republican Congress, we saw what happened. They passed two tax cuts, 
fought two wars without paying for them, prescription drugs without 
paying for them; and rather than, in 2001, when Chairman Greenspan had 
to answer questions like, What will happen when we pay off the national 
debt? Are we paying off the national debt too quickly?, it looked like 
we were on target by 2008 to pay off the entire debt held by the 
public. Those were the discussions.
  The first tax cut was the last time you heard any of that discussion. 
And as a result of the two tax cuts, two unpaid-for wars and an unpaid-
for prescription drug benefit, we ended up in huge deficits. The fact 
is the 1993 budget never would have passed if we had required a three-
fifths vote.
  Now we should be focused on the actual effects of the resolution. 
There's another provision, and that's the provision involving war.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. Yoder). The time of the gentleman has 
  Mr. CONYERS. I yield the gentleman 1 additional minute.
  Mr. SCOTT of Virginia. All of the provisions of this budget can be 
set aside when a declared war is in effect or when the United States is 
engaged in a military conflict which causes an imminent and serious 
military threat to national security. That provision ought to scare 
every two-bit dictator around the world because if we're having trouble 
getting the three-fifths, all we've got to do is drop a bomb on them, 
and we can pass a budget with a simple majority.
  But we ought to be focused on the provisions of the bill. How would 
the three-fifths vote, when we can't even achieve a simple majority, 
help balance the budget? It should be obvious that rather than just 
talking about how nice it would be to balance the budget, how do these 
provisions actually make that easier? I think the fact of the matter is 
if we adopt this resolution, it will be harder, if not impossible, to 
ever balance the budget, and that's why this resolution ought to be 
  Mr. GOODLATTE. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself 30 seconds to complete the 
  As I said in my remarks earlier, Presidents of both parties and 
Congresses of both parties have much to explain in terms of the lack of 
the balanced budgets over the last 50 years. Only six times in 50 years 
have they been balanced. But here is the record: of the 13 of those 50 
years that Republicans controlled the Congress, they only balanced the 
budget four times. Of the 37 years that Democrats controlled the 
Congress, during that time, they only balanced the budget twice.
  It is now my pleasure to yield 2 minutes to the gentlewoman from 
Tennessee (Mrs. Blackburn).
  Mrs. BLACKBURN. Mr. Speaker, I would encourage my colleagues in this 
body to consider the balanced budget amendment and to support it.
  I do rise in support of this amendment because hardworking taxpayers 
know that out-of-control spending in Washington is killing job creation 
and economic growth. In less than 3 years, President Obama and his 
administration have added $4.3 trillion to our national debt, which is 
now over $15 trillion. Astounding. That is $47,900 for every American. 
Is it really fair for our children and grandchildren to have to 
shoulder that kind of debt for programs they don't want and having to 
pay for it with money they don't have? Is that really fair?
  The Obama economy is stifling the ability of small businesses and 
hardworking taxpayers to achieve their goals and dreams. It is time to 
rein in wasteful Washington spending. It is time to stop the madness.
  We need a permanent solution to the fiscal problems that are plaguing 
this economy, and the clear and commonsense solution is to pass this 
balanced budget amendment. It's not a new idea. Every year in my State 
of Tennessee, our State, cities and counties across our State all 
balance their budget, and 49 other States do. Passing a constitutional 
mandate would require Congress to balance the budget every year and 
legally obligate this body to spend only what it takes in.
  We can no longer kick the can down the road. We can't wait to replace 
Washington's blank check with the checks and balances necessary to 
provide true fiscal responsibility. Passing the balanced budget 
amendment is an effective component of accountability and spending 
control. Washington mandates too much, spends too much, takes too much, 
and takes our freedom.
  Mr. CONYERS. I am pleased to yield 3 minutes to the gentlelady from 
Florida, Ms. Kathy Castor.
  Ms. CASTOR of Florida. I thank the gentleman for the time.
  I support a balanced budget, and I support a balanced budget 
amendment; but this version would place a very dangerous straitjacket 
on our country's ability to address a disaster. I'm very proud to 
represent the State of Florida. But after a year of devastating 
tornadoes, floods and fires all across this country, you do not have to 
hail from the State of Florida to understand the impact of a natural 
disaster and the importance of our ability to speed assistance to local 
  This amendment would erect roadblocks to our country's ability to 
address natural disasters and emergencies. Please recall how many of 
our GOP colleagues a few months ago sought to stall emergency aid. I 
will read from a press report from back in August: ``Americans who saw 
their homes flooded, streets ripped apart and businesses disrupted by 
last weekend's hurricane are about to face another storm: a new 
congressional battle. Unless additional disaster aid is appropriated, 
Federal officials said communities trying to rebuild from natural 
disasters this year in the Midwest and South will have to wait while 
funds are diverted to help victims of Hurricane Irene. The recent 
string of disasters, including a tornado that tore through Joplin, 
Missouri, and a flood that inundated Minot, North Dakota, is running 
into the same political buzz saw that nearly forced the government into 
default over the bitter fight over the debt ceiling this summer.''
  Delays in emergency aid are unconscionable, and it is terrible for 
FEMA to have to choose between which American cities and towns can be 
helped and which ones can't. And the problem with this version of the 
balanced budget amendment is that it could cause impacted communities 
to live that nightmare again. It didn't happen after Hurricane Katrina 
or 9/11 or other disasters, but after the antics of this Republican 
Congress this past fall, I am very concerned that this version of the 
balanced budget amendment would allow another irresponsible Congress to 
block emergency assistance to local communities.
  We should not set our country up to be at the mercy of Tea Party 
hardliners, not at the times when our neighbors and communities need us 
  I relayed my concerns to the House sponsor after he was kind enough 
to call me directly, and I appreciate that opportunity. Unfortunately, 
the Republicans did not allow any amendments or revisions, so I intend 
to file my own version of a balanced budget amendment, a version that 
seeks to avoid an irresponsible Congress from withholding disaster 
  Because this version of the balanced budget amendment is flawed, I 
urge its defeat.
  Mr. GOODLATTE. Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to yield 2 minutes to 
the gentleman from Pennsylvania (Mr. Altmire), a member of the 
Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
  Mr. ALTMIRE. Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of the balanced 
budget amendment. Forty-nine of the 50 States are required to balance 
their budgets. And while I'm certain that State legislatures will agree 
that it's always a difficult process, somehow they annually meet their 
obligations while achieving balance. The Federal Government should be 
able to do it, too.
  But States aren't the only place Congress can look to for examples. 
Every family and every business in America has to balance expenses and 
income. They have every right to expect the Federal Government to do 
the same; but, unfortunately, Congress has let them down time and 
  Mr. Speaker, the time has come to fix the problem. Constitutional 
amendments to require a balanced budget have been introduced in 
Congress for

[[Page H7798]]

the past 75 years. Most recently, in 1995, the House passed a balanced 
budget virtually identical to the one we're debating today, and it 
passed this House with bipartisan support, 72 Democrats and 228 
Republicans. And because that amendment failed by one vote in the 
Senate, our national debt has now surpassed $15 trillion. The situation 
has only gotten worse, and the stakes today are much higher than 1995.

                              {time}  1840

  This vote is an opportunity to prove to the American people that this 
Congress can work together and that we are finally committed to 
balancing our budget and putting our country back on fiscally solid 
  Mr. CONYERS. I reserve the balance of my time.
  Mr. GOODLATTE. Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to yield 2 minutes to 
the gentleman from Indiana (Mr. Bucshon), a member of the Education and 
Workforce Committee.
  Mr. BUCSHON. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of the balanced 
budget amendment to the Constitution. This is an opportunity for the 
Federal Government to keep our checkbook balanced, just as every 
American is expected to do.
  The House passed a very similar amendment in 1995 when our debt was 
$4.86 trillion. Seventy Democrats voted for the amendment, including 11 
of my current colleagues. I urge my friends on the other side of the 
aisle to vote for this amendment now that our debt has tripled to over 
$15 trillion.
  The President recently said in regards to balancing the budget, ``We 
don't need a constitutional amendment to do that. We don't need a 
constitutional amendment to do our jobs. The Constitution already tells 
us to do our jobs--and to make sure the government is living within its 
means and making responsible choices.'' Mr. President, I respectfully 
disagree. Washington, D.C., has not been able to make these choices and 
is not living within its means. I was elected by the people of 
Indiana's Eighth Congressional District to help us make that happen.
  I'd also like to say that some of Mr. Hoyer's comments help us today 
to outline exactly why Washington, D.C., needs a balanced budget 
amendment. I thank him for pointing those reasons out. This is not a 
partisan issue, Mr. Speaker, it's an American issue.
  I support this amendment, and I urge my colleagues today to vote 
``yes'' on a balanced budget amendment.

                Announcement by the Speaker Pro Tempore

  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Members are reminded to not traffic the well 
while other Members are under recognition.
  Mr. CONYERS. I continue to reserve the balance of my time.
  Mr. GOODLATTE. Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to yield 3 minutes to 
the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Conaway), the chairman of the Agriculture 
Committee General Farm Commodities Subcommittee.
  (Mr. CONAWAY asked and was given permission to revise and extend his 
  Mr. CONAWAY. Mr. Speaker, it's already been said tonight that 15 
years ago we came within a chigger's whisker of passing a balanced 
budget amendment and sending it to the States. Imagine how different 
today's conversations would be had the folks in charge then done that. 
We'd still be fussing and fighting about what ought to be done, but the 
argument would be, how do we solve today's problems using today's 
resources? Instead, we've stacked up another $9 trillion of future 
generations of Americans' resources in our quest to solve these 
  Well, think about what 2026 will look like, 15 years from now. The 
folks in charge then will be able to take out the projections that we 
have in place today and compare those to what is actually going on 
then--if we pass this balanced budget amendment--and say, wow, look how 
much better off this country is. They'll still be fussing and fighting, 
but it will be using their resources to fix their problems instead of 
the model that we've put in place collectively, on both sides of the 
aisle. There's plenty of blame to go around.
  The decisions that will have to be made to balance our budget are no 
different with or without the balanced budget amendment. They are hard. 
They are difficult. And I've got $15 trillion worth of evidence that 
we're not making those tough decisions without the balanced budget 
amendment. Technically, we could get it done, but we're not getting it 
done--and we are on absolutely no path to get that done.
  I received today a petition from Jim Keffer, a State representative 
from Texas, signed by 969 other good Texans, urging me to support this 
balanced budget amendment.
  Mr. Speaker, I would encourage all of my colleagues to think about 
the future of this country, how much better off will this country be 
with a balanced budget amendment. This is the only thing that we are 
contemplating doing over the next 15 years that has a remote chance of 
fundamentally changing for the better the future that my seven 
grandchildren face. It is a bleak future they face today. We can 
fundamentally change that future for the spending efforts of this 
country with a balanced budget amendment that will force us to do the 
things that everybody else does.
  I urge all of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to support 
this balanced budget amendment.

                                         House of Representatives,

                                                  District 60,

                                 Austin, Texas, November 16, 2011.
       Dear Congressman Conaway, it's time for us to stand 
     together and teach Washington the first lesson in Texas 
     economics: Don't spend more than you make!
       We Texans know the importance of fiscal responsibility and 
     how to live within our means, and I'm proud that our state 
     constitution reflects these principles by requiring the state 
     legislature to pass a balanced budget each session. This 
     valuable tool allows us to keep the size of our state 
     government in check and our economy stable and job friendly!
       I am grateful that through your leadership and the 
     leadership of our party, Congress now has the opportunity to 
     debate and vote on a proposed constitutional amendment 
     requiring a balanced federal budget like we have here in 
       You and I have the high honor of representing the hard 
     working men and women of this great state in our respective 
     governing bodies, and I submit to you the names of close to a 
     thousand concerned citizens urging you to vote in favor of 
     this constitutional amendment.
       This is a critical moment for our nation's future economic 
     health and stability, and I encourage you join us and stand 
     together as Texans to demand that Washington follow our lead!
       Please vote in favor of the constitutional amendment 
     requiring a balanced federal budget!
       I sincerely appreciate your consideration on this matter. 
     We value your leadership, and I look forward to the 
     opportunity to continue working with you on the important 
     issues facing our state and nation.
       God Bless America and the Great State of Texas!
                                  State Representative Jim Keffer,
                                                      District 60.


       It's time for Washington to follow our lead and pass a 
     balanced budget amendment.
       Sign the petition TODAY!
       James Abbott, Floyd Abbott, Robert Abresch, Timothy 
     Ackerman, Peggy Adams, Marza Adams, Cecil L. Adams, Ron 
     Agnew, Francisco Aguilar, Alan Ahlberg, Ronnie Ainsworth, 
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     Brandon Ammons, Linda Amos, Jadell Anderson, Zanna Anderson, 
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     R Bradshaw, David Branch, Cara Branch, Dianne Brandt, david 
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     Janet Bright, Noel Brinkerhoff, Sherry Britton, Jerry 
     Britton, Judy Britton, Eve Brock, Starling Brock Sr., Kevin 
     Brockus, Dale Brooks, Roberta Broussard, Roy Broussard, Linda 
     Brown, Gina Brown, Stan E Brudney,

[[Page H7799]]

     Alana D Brudney, Kimberly Bruton, Jeanene Bryan, Freddie 
     Buchanan, Lesli Buchanan, Terry Buchanan, Greg Buenger, 
     Robert Bullis, Aletha Burgess, Gerald Burgess.
       Melissa Burgin, Travis Burke, Paul Burns, Susan Burns, 
     David Butler, Wilma Butler, Angie Button, Carl Byers, Matt 
     Byrd, Larry Byrd, Carol Cahill, Billy Campsey, Mike Canaday, 
     Bob Cantwell, Dorothy Caram, Harold Carnathan, Bryan W 
     Carpenter, David Carroll, Brenda Carroll, Jane Carter, Watt 
     Casey, Dosia Casey, Watt Casey Jr., James Cashion, Greggory 
     Cassady, Maggie Catherall, Deborah Catsonis, Ruth Cezar, 
     Floyd Chambers, Ira Chambers, Rhonda Chancellor, Jesse 
     Chaney, Barney Chapman, C Dan Chenoweth, Karey Chilson, Sandy 
     Chisholm, Curt Christensen, Willie Christian, Brian 
     Christopher, Danny Clack, Jack L. Clack, Vera Clack, Eugene 
     Clark, James Clark, David Clemens.
       Kenny Clement, Calvin Click, Sandra Clinard, Pat Cloud, 
     Carole Cockerham, Darrell Cockerham, Lisa Cody, Bill Cody, 
     Joe Coffey, Betty Cole, Q. Coleman, Glenda Collins, Tom 
     Conley, Janis Connally, Dan Connally, R. Kelton Conner, 
     Michael Cook, Mary Cook, Carol Cook, Suze Cook, Jim Cooley, 
     Robert Cordova, Donald Corley, Edith Corley, Tim Coulter, 
     James Cowan, Jerold Coward, Chris Cox, Chris Cox, Shari 
     Craig, Marsha Cranford, Jerry Criswell, Sharon Crittenden, 
     Leon Crockett, Geri Cronenworth, Ronald Crossman, Jesse 
     Crowell, Carrie Cuoghi, Sherrie Curry, Sherry Curtis, Dolores 
     Dailey, Barbara Daniel, Richard S Davenport, Thomas Davies, 
     Sherrill Davis, J. Davis.
       Betty Davis, Russell Davis, Lana Davis, Ronald Davis, 
     Elizabeth Davis, Willie Davis, Jim Dawson, Amy Day, Harry 
     Deal, Karen Deatherage, Theodore Dickinson, Elaine Dippel, 
     Robert Dixon, Mary Donalson, Donald Dorenbach, Richard 
     Dormier, Cynthia Dormier, John Dowling, Frank Drake, Wade 
     Driskill, Margaret Dunham, C. Briscoe Dunn, Trevor Dupuy, 
     Diane Durbin, Adam Dwire, Louis Dyess, Amy Dykes, Rick Dykes, 
     Herbert Earnest, Natalie Earnest, Janet Ebersole, Eleanor 
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     Jerry Edwards, Pat Edwards, Cha Edwardson, Joy Ellinger, Tom 
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     Faetcha, Larry Fann, Frank Farmer, Terry Farquhar, Robert 
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     Dale Fessenden, Judy Finch, Linda Finkle, James Finley, Jimmy 
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     Flatt, Lowell Fletcher, Grace Fletcher, David Fletcher, Sarah 
     Floerke, Naomi Flores, Christopher Flores, Shirley Ford, 
     Shiela Foreman, Allen Foreman, Steve Fortner, Stephen Foster, 
     Susan Fountain, Justin Fowler, Pat Foy, Barbara Francisco, 
     Mark Francisco, M Dawn Frederick, Steven Freeman, Kathie 
     Freeman, Rodger Frego, Judy French, Jere French, Shai 
     Frietze, Claud Fry, Lorine Fuessel.
       Linda Fulks, James Fullen, Donald Fuller, Billy Gaddis, 
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     Gooch, Peggy Goodson, Bernelle Goodwin, Billy Goodwin, Joe 
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     Hackett, Glenn Haefner, OG Hahn, Ruth Hahn Hahnm, Robbie 
     Hamby, Todd Hamilton, Rick Hamm.
       Virginia Hammock, Sam Hampton, Michelle Hanks, Janet Hanna, 
     Michael Hansard, Eli Harden, Amber Hardin, Norval Hardy, 
     Harry Hardy, Tyler Hargrave, John J Hargreaves,LuEtta 
     Hargreaves, Nicki Harle, Terry Harman, William K Harner Jr. 
     Terri Harris, Curtis Harris, Steve Harris, Marilyn Harrison, 
     Karen Hartsfield, James Hasik, Quinton Hayden, Stephen 
     Haynes, Don Hays, Leonard Heathington, Kris Heckmann, Kate 
     Heim, Janice Heiskell, Nell Helfenbein, Sharlene Hetzel, Bob 
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     Jonna Hitt, Jim Hix, Heath Hodges, John Hoffman, C. Suzann 
     Hoffman, Tom Hollaway, Johnny Holcombe, Ralph Hollingshead.
       Randy Holson, Carol Holt, Bob Hopkins, Zeda Hopkins, 
     William Horick, Carolyn Houston, Terry Howard, Jane D. 
     Howell, Irene Howell, Glenna Huber, Virginia Huff, Carl Huff, 
     Neal Huffman, Janelle Huffman, Bob Huffman, Ellen Hughes, 
     Alice Hull, Tom Huskey, Bill Hutson, Joe Hyde, Chuck Iannaci, 
     Thomas Imre, Jack Jackson, Robert Jacobs, Treena Jacques, 
     Rodney Jaemsq, Tammy James, Christopher C Jamison, Joe 
     Jessing, Butler Jim, Norwood Johnny, Sheron Johnson, Herma 
     Jean Johnson, Judy Johnson, Keith Johnson, Kim M. Johnson, 
     Martin Johnson, Christine Johnson, Russell Johnston, Dean 
     Johnston, Lori Jolly, Shirley Jones, Judi Jones, Lew Jones, 
     Delnita Jones, Charles Jones, Travis Jones, Marilyn Jones, 
     Thomas Jones, Bettye Jordan, Roger Jordan, Webb Jordan, Louis 
     Jupe, David Kaltenbach, Ronald Karcher, John Kaufmann, Terri 
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     Bill King, Kimberly King, Wanda King, Tracy Kirsch, Daniel 
     Kirsch, Clent Kniffen, Doodie T Knox, Jack L Knox, Sally 
     Koch, Rebekah Kodrin, Louis Kodrin, Lisa Koiner, Doris 
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       Richard Krantz, Judy Krause, Russel Krueger, Elsie Kwok, 
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       Sandra Magers, Larry Mahand, Wallace Maness, Wallace 
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     Bob Phillips, Deborah Piacente, Steven Pierce, Burris Pigg, 
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     James Potter, Alyda Luann Pratt, William Prazak, Anita 
     Prescott, Glenda Price, Willie Price, Gaylene Price, Allan 
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     Rubey, Michael Rudnik, Michael Russell, Michael Rutherford, 
     Loyd Rutledge, John Ryan, Joseph Sadowski, Wayne Sanderson, 
     Frederick Saporsky III, Thomas D Saunders.
       Kathy I Saunders, Thomas D. Saunders, Barbara Schatz, Dan 
     Scheffel, Cathy Scheffel, Cody Schilling, Thomas Schneider, 
     Jim Schroeder, Charles Schwertner, Gordon Scott, Dennis 
     Scullion, L. Seale, Susan Seider, Leonard Seitz, Chuck 
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     Sharpe, Ann Shaver, David Shaw, J. Shaw, David Shaw, Karen 
     Shaw, James Shelton, Doris Shields, Doris Shields, Lucy 
     Shipman, James Shipman, Jr., Lawler Shirley, Foster Simmons, 
     Franky Simon, Maurice Simpson, Rose Simpson, Judy Singer, 
     Harold R Skelton, Paula Skipworth, Tommy L Sloan, Susan L 
     Sloan, Harold Smith, Dr. Derek L. Smith, Billy Smith, Colleen 
     Smith, Charles Smith, Sara Smith, Norman Smith.
       Lynn Smith, C.L. Smith, Joan Smith, Barbara Smith, Gary 
     Smith, Codie Smith, Jonathan Smythe, Dickie Wayne Snider, 

[[Page H7800]]

     Sobata, Elizabeth Solomon, Brad Somers, Bill Spencer, James 
     Squires, Karen Stack, Martha Stalkfleet, Brad Stalkfleet, Ron 
     Stanfield, Sherri Stanfield, Cherri Stanley, Bob Stewart, 
     Betty Stewart, Nancy Stewart, Joe Stewart, Robert Stewart, 
     Stephen Storm, George Strake, Jr., Janice Strunk, Julie Su, 
     Franklin Sullivan, William Sumerford, Kathy Sumerford, Linda 
     Swening, Al Swening, Roy Swift, Jane Swift, Steven Sykes, 
     Jeane Syring, Michael Tabinski, Daniel Tague, Sherri Tally, 
     Joline Tate, Herbie Taylor, Joan Terrell, Janis Terrell, Amy 
     Terrell, Roy Thackerson.
       Donna Thackerson, Ray Thompson, John Thompson, Mary Ann 
     Thompson, Bill Thrailkill, Kay Tibbels, Michael Tibbets, 
     David Tickner, Danny Tollison, Richard Tondre, Saundra 
     Tongate, Warren Tongate, Martha Townsend, Amy Traylor, Mark 
     Traylor, Cherly Troxel, JaneIle Truex, Charlotte Tucker, 
     David Tucker, Kathleen Tully, Betty Turner, Beverly Uhlmer, 
     Steven Vandiver, Elizabeth Vannett, Susan Vela, Camille Vela, 
     Colby Vidrine, Michael Vieira, Wilfred Vincent, David 
     Vinyard, Hansel Von Quenzer, Pat Wade, Wilda Wahrenbrock, Joy 
     Waldrep, Milton Waldrep, Aric Waldron, Tena Walker, Joseph 
     Walker, Toby Marie Walker, Letitia Wall, Patsy Wallace, Susan 
     Waller, Doug Walters, Patsy Walton, Mary Ward, Dan Ward.
       Regina Watkins, Ken Watson, Dean Watson, Phyllis 
     Weatherston, Stanley Webb, Oren Webb, Susan Webb, Priscilla 
     Weisend, Jo Ellen Welborn, Melissa Welch, Erin Werley, Patsy 
     West, Ronnie Westfall, Lawrence Whaley, Debbie Wharton, Randy 
     Wharton, Kenneth White, Lewis White, Jack Whitele, Leona 
     Whitele, Don Whitney, Jane Whittaker, Lynn Whittington, Matt 
     Wiederstein, Birt Wilkerson, Birt Wilkerson, Jennifer 
     Williams, Larry Williams, Jack Williams, Paul Williams, Jack 
     Wilson, Donna Wilson, Peggy M. Wilson, Betty Wilson, Mark 
     Wilson, Bob Wilson, Gary Wilson, Lawrence Winkler, Gerri 
     Winkler, Tom Wisdom, Marie Wolfe, Richard Womack, Candace 
     Womack, Martha Wong, Betsy Wood, Blake Woodall, Roy Wooten, 
     John T Wright, Roger Yates, Gene Yentzen, Judy Yentzen, 
     Joseph Yeo, Tammy Youngblood, Byron Youngblood, Carolyn 
     Zapata, Victor Zengerle, Joseph L. Zimmer, Coy Zumwalt.

  Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Speaker, it is now my privilege to yield to Jesse 
Jackson, Jr., a distinguished Member from Chicago, Illinois, as much 
time as he may consume.
  Mr. JACKSON of Illinois. I thank the gentleman for yielding.
  Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong opposition to H.J. Res. 2, the balanced 
budget amendment. We do need to responsibly reduce our budget deficits 
and debt, but the best way to do that is by investing, building, and 
growing our economy, or through balanced economic growth, not a 
balanced budget amendment.
  What is the most important question to be raised with respect to the 
BBA? We have serious gaps in our society that need to be narrowed. 
Economic gaps between the rich and the poor--ask the 99 percent. Social 
gaps between racial minorities and the majority population. Gender 
gaps--woman earn 76 cents for the dollar of what men earn. Generational 
gaps--will Social Security be there for the next generation? 
Infrastructure gaps--upgrades to roads, bridges, ports, levees, water 
and sewer systems, high-speed rail, airports and more in order to 
remain competitive in the world marketplace.
  So the most important question, Mr. Speaker, is this: How does the 
BBA narrow these economic, social, gender, generational, and 
infrastructure gaps? It won't. It simply exacerbates them. The BBA will 
permanently establish the United States as a separate and unequal 
society. The BBA will balance the Federal budget on the backs of the 
poor, the working class, and the middle class.
  The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and Citizens for Tax 
Justice say that the BBA would damage our economy by making recessions 
deeper and more frequent; heighten the risk of default and jeopardize 
the full faith and credit of the U.S. Government; lead to reductions in 
needed investments for the future; and favor wealthy Americans over 
middle and low-income Americans by making it far more difficult to 
raise revenues and easier to cut programs. And it would weaken the 
principle of majority rule.
  Before this Congress affirms a balanced budget amendment, we need to 
consider our future--not just the future of America's debt, but 
America's future. Do we want a future that is bright with promise; a 
future with innovation; a future with the best schools, the brightest 
students, and the strongest and healthiest workers? Do we want to 
continue to lead in the world? My answer is yes.
  Mr. Speaker, I respectfully urge my colleagues to vote ``no'' on this 
irresponsible and shortsighted amendment.
  Mr. GOODLATTE. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself 30 seconds to answer the 
question, what do the 99 percent want? Well, CNN asked them in July. 
The answer was 74 percent favored a balanced budget amendment; 74 
percent of men, 75 percent of women, 76 percent of white voters, 72 
percent of nonwhite voters, 72 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds, 74 
percent of 35- to 49-year-olds, 75 percent of 50- to 64-year-olds, 79 
percent of 65 and older voters want a balanced budget amendment to the 
United States Constitution.
  At this time, it is my pleasure to yield 2 minutes to the gentleman 
from Texas (Mr. Culberson), a member of the Appropriations Committee.
  Mr. CULBERSON. Mr. Speaker, I first of all want to thank the 
Congressman from Virginia. Bob Goodlatte has been a relentless and 
tireless advocate for balancing the budget of the United States of 
America with a constitutional amendment. And we are here tonight 
debating it because of his perseverance. I want to thank Speaker 
Boehner. I want to thank the people of America for electing a 
constitutional majority to the House--elections make a huge difference.
  We must pass this amendment to the Constitution tonight. The Senate 
must take a vote on it. And the people of America should hold every 
Member of Congress accountable for their vote because this is a 
defining vote on a defining evening for the United States Congress. How 
much more prosperous would America be today if the Senate had passed 
this amendment 16 years ago? How much stronger would America be today?
  The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has said, as has been 
pointed out earlier, that America's greatest strategic threat is our 
national debt. What better evidence of that is there than that the 
people of Europe tonight are facing panic selling of European Union 
debt. Greece, Italy, and Portugal are all on the brink.
  We cannot let America continue down this path. We have an obligation 
to our children and grandchildren to ensure that the Nation's books are 
balanced just as every American must do, just as 49 out of 50 States 
must do, just as every business in America must do.
  This is just fundamental common sense. No amount of confusion or 
distraction on the part of the opponents can divert the country's 
attention from the simple, commonsense fact that an amendment to the 
Constitution requiring a balanced budget requires America to live 
within its means, to spend no more than is brought in by revenue.

                              {time}  1850

  My hero, Thomas Jefferson, said, and his words ring so true today in 
light of the problems we face, that to preserve our independence as 
Americans, we must not let our rulers load us down with perpetual debt. 
We must make our choice, America, between economy and liberty and 
perfusion and servitude.
  I want to thank Congressman Goodlatte for his leadership and 
perseverance on this vitally important issue. And I'm looking forward 
to the day, in 15 to 16 years from today, when this amendment passes 
the Congress, when it passes the States overwhelmingly, so that my 
daughter and her children will inherit an America that's more 
prosperous and more secure because of Bob Goodlatte and John Boehner's 
leadership in bringing this to the floor tonight so that we will, as a 
Nation, continue to live within our means.
  Mr. CONYERS. I reserve the balance of my time.
  Mr. GOODLATTE. Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to yield 2 minutes to 
the gentleman from Pennsylvania (Mr. Meehan), chairman of the 
Counterterrorism and Intelligence Subcommittee of the Homeland Security 
  Mr. MEEHAN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for yielding.
  One trillion $1 bills. We're talking about trying to make sense of a 
trillion dollars. If they were stacked on top of each other, they would 
reach nearly 68,000 miles into the sky, about a third of the way from 
the Earth to the Moon. As of yesterday, our national debt was 15 times 
that $1 trillion.
  Fifteen years ago the balanced budget amendment passed the House with 
bipartisan support, only to lose by one vote in the Senate. Since that 
time, our Nation's debt has grown $9.2 trillion more.

[[Page H7801]]

  Every day families make tough decisions in order to live within their 
means. But when it comes to our country's bank account, both parties in 
Washington simply don't practice these responsible habits.
  It is wrong for us to accumulate this mounting debt that we know 
we're never going to repay. Instead, we expect our children and our 
grandchildren to do so. It's our obligation to pass on the blessings of 
liberty, not a crushing debt to our posterity.
  A certain way to ensure that is that Congress and the President will 
not allow the U.S. to be driven further into debt, and that is to pass 
an amendment to the Constitution forcing our government to balance the 
budget each year. Promising to make cuts in Federal spending is one 
thing, but an amendment to the Constitution demanding it is quite 
  A balanced budget would legally force Congress to spend only what it 
takes in, and it protects taxpayers and small businesses from the 
threat of higher taxes to cover Washington's spending habits. This will 
be for a better future for our children and our Nation.
  Mr. CONYERS. I continue to reserve the balance of my time.
  Mr. GOODLATTE. Mr. Speaker, I yield 1\1/2\ minutes to the gentleman 
from Texas (Mr. Farenthold), a member of the Homeland Security 
  Mr. FARENTHOLD. I thank the gentleman for yielding.
  Every month, millions of American families make tough financial 
decisions about how they'll pay their bills, balance their budget, and 
make ends meet. They make tough choices and do without things they want 
so they can have the things that they need. The American people have to 
make these tough choices, and we, as their elected leaders, need to do 
the same thing. America cannot continue to spend more than we take in.
  A balanced budget amendment to the Constitution will ensure our 
grandchildren do not have to deal with the reckless mistakes Congress 
has already made by overspending and excessive borrowing. Our vote on 
this amendment will show hardworking American taxpayers who have a hard 
time balancing their own budgets which Members of Congress get it and 
who are doing their jobs that they are elected to do.
  The current national debt is over $15 trillion, and that's way too 
much. Passing a balanced budget is the best way to ensure that we don't 
spend money we don't have on programs we don't need.
  The American people want a government that is responsible and 
accountable. A balanced budget, like almost every State has, like 
almost every family lives with, is a key to this responsibility and 
accountability. It makes our economy stronger and healthier and 
preserves this great Nation for generations to come.
  Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Speaker, how much time remains on each side, please?
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. The gentleman from Michigan has 86\1/4\ 
minutes remaining. The gentleman from Virginia has 91 minutes 
  Mr. CONYERS. I continue to reserve the balance of my time.
  Mr. GOODLATTE. Mr. Speaker, at this time it is my pleasure to yield 2 
minutes to the gentleman from Utah (Mr. Matheson).
  Mr. MATHESON. I thank the gentleman from Virginia (Mr. Goodlatte) for 
introducing the bill, and I thank the gentleman from Virginia for the 
  You know, I'm part of the Blue Dog Coalition, a group of conservative 
Democrats, and for 16 years the Blue Dogs have been advocating a 
balanced budget amendment.
  It really shouldn't be about Democrats and Republicans. Since I've 
been in Congress, I've been here when Democrats controlled Congress and 
Republicans controlled Congress. I've been here when Democrats 
controlled the White House and Republicans controlled the White House, 
and neither party has the best track record on the deficit issue. And 
that's why I think the balanced budget amendment makes sense, because I 
think we need a structural requirement that brings everyone to the 
table and says this is what you've got to do, Democrats or Republicans.
  This shouldn't be a partisan issue. This should be an issue about 
setting a path forward that creates stability and sends the right 
message to the American people and to the rest of the world that we 
know how to live within our means.
  Now, I have to say that I wish we had more support on my side of the 
aisle than we do because, as I said, I don't think it's a Democratic or 
Republican issue. I think it's an issue that we all ought to be looking 
at--balancing the books, balancing your budget. Families do it every 
day. States do it. At least 49 States have a requirement for a balanced 
budget. I think that this country needs that, too, and I urge all my 
colleagues to support this amendment and put us on a path to fiscal 
  Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself 1 minute to ask the speaker 
who just finished, if I could gain his attention for a moment. I thank 
the gentleman for coming back into the well.
  Does the gentleman agree with me, in examining this bill, that this 
bill risks default by the United States by requiring a supermajority to 
raise the debt limit, which is not the case now?
  I yield to my friend.
  Mr. MATHESON. I think it's the same threshold that requires us to 
make a decision to deficit spend. It's the same supermajority for that 
as well. So I think that what we do is we're putting a requirement in 
where, if you want to default or if you want to raise the debt limit or 
if you want to deficit spend, it requires a supermajority. But if you 
want to pass a budget that is within balance, it doesn't require a 
supermajority. It requires a simple majority, and that's the way the 
bill is structured.
  Mr. CONYERS. Did the gentleman say yes or no to my question?
  Mr. MATHESON. I said no.
  Mr. CONYERS. That a supermajority is not required to raise the debt 
limit under this bill?
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. The time of the gentleman has expired.
  Mr. CONYERS. I yield myself an additional minute, and I yield to my 
  Mr. MATHESON. As I said, let's not do apples and oranges here. Let's 
do apples and apples. If this Congress wants to act in a way to pass a 
balanced budget, it doesn't require a supermajority. If this Congress 
wants to make a decision to deficit spend, it can do that with a 
supermajority, and that's the same requirement as if it wants to raise 
the debt limit.
  By the way, if a simple majority balances the budget, there is no 
need to raise the debt limit. There's no need to raise the debt limit 
if we have a balanced budget, and that would be a simple majority to 
pass a balanced budget each year.
  Mr. CONYERS. I want to thank my colleague for answering the question.
  I would like now to turn to the gentleman who represents the 
majority, a distinguished member of the Judiciary Committee, Mr. 
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. The time of the gentleman has again expired.

                              {time}  1900

  Mr. CONYERS. I yield myself 2 additional minutes.
  I would like to ask him if he is aware of the fact that H.J. Res. 2 
would require a supermajority to raise the debt limit.
  I'm pleased to yield to the gentleman.
  Mr. GOODLATTE. As the gentleman from Utah correctly noted, it 
requires the same supermajority of 60 percent to not balance the budget 
or to raise the debt limit. Quite frankly, if you have a constitutional 
amendment in place that requires a balanced budget, you're going to 
generate surpluses most years, and therefore raising the debt limit 
will occur less and less frequently. But those two requirements are in 
place in order to have an enforcement mechanism so that Congresses of 
the future will not do what Congresses of the past have been doing.
  Mr. CONYERS. Did the gentleman answer me with a ``yes''?
  Mr. GOODLATTE. Would the gentleman repeat that question?
  Mr. CONYERS. Did the gentleman understand the question?
  Mr. GOODLATTE. I understand it and answered it.
  Mr. CONYERS. Was the answer ``yes'' or ``no'' to my question?

[[Page H7802]]

  Mr. GOODLATTE. The answer is, yes, it requires a supermajority to 
raise the debt limit and a supermajority to not balance the budget, 
which would be an unusual thing in the future because in the last 50 
years, it's only been balanced six times.
  Mr. CONYERS. Then let me ask my colleague this question: Does it 
presently require a supermajority to raise the debt limit?
  Mr. GOODLATTE. No, there is no such requirement today.
  Mr. CONYERS. Thank you. It isn't. And there would be in this bill, 
would it not?
  Mr. GOODLATTE. Absolutely.
  Mr. CONYERS. And the gentleman supports a supermajority to raise the 
debt limit?
  Mr. GOODLATTE. Very much so.
  Mr. JACKSON of Illinois. Will the gentleman yield?
  Mr. CONYERS. I yield to the gentleman from Illinois.
  Mr. JACKSON of Illinois. Is the gentleman aware that under such a 
scenario, a budget crisis in which a default becomes a more threat is 
more likely because the limits placed on the fluidity of the debt 
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. The time of the gentleman from Michigan has 
again expired.
  Mr. CONYERS. I yield myself an additional 3 minutes and continue to 
yield to the gentleman from Illinois.
  Mr. JACKSON of Illinois. I thank the gentleman. My question is of the 
chairman as well.
  Under such a scenario where a three-fifths vote of the House would be 
permitted to raise the debt limit, a budget crisis in which a default 
becomes a more threat is obviously more likely. And because of the 
limits placed on the fluidity of the debt ceiling, that default becomes 
more likely to occur.
  Is it the gentleman's opinion that a small minority within the 
Congress could indeed hold the entire Nation hostage to such a vote?
  Mr. GOODLATTE. I don't agree with that at all. In fact, in the 
greatest debt limit crisis you might ever say we've had, which was just 
this summer, close to, if not in excess of, 60 percent of the Members 
of the House voted to raise the debt limit. So I don't believe that 
future Congresses would be any more irresponsible. I think future 
Congresses are likely to be more responsible than prior Congresses 
because we have not balanced the budget for but six times in the last 
50 years.
  We have a $15 trillion debt.
  Mr. JACKSON of Illinois. May I reclaim the time?
  Mr. Chairman, in the event that Congress fails to act, obviously 
under this amendment the courts would be empowered to provide remedial 
orders for when Congress failed to provide a balanced budget. The 
decisions would then force the courts to be political in nature.
  Is it the gentleman's opinion that the judicial branch and that 
members of the court are in a better position to make judgements about 
congressional budgets and about the Nation's budgets than Members of 
  Mr. GOODLATTE. It's my opinion that Members of the United States 
Congress will uphold the oath to uphold the Constitution of the United 
States. And that scenario will be very unlikely to occur; and when it 
does, judges will, as they historically have on matters involving the 
internal business of the Congress, exercise judicial restraint.
  Mr. JACKSON of Illinois. Respectfully, Mr. Chairman, the courts could 
then mandate a government shutdown once revenue has been expended, 
unlike the CRs that Congress passes.
  Mr. NADLER. Will the gentleman yield?
  Mr. JACKSON of Illinois. I would be happy to yield.
  Mr. NADLER. Just two comments.
  First of all, going back to what you were discussing a moment ago, 
the answer to your question is that under this amendment, 40 percent of 
either House could hold the entire country hostage against the other 60 
percent. Sixty percent could want a balanced budget and there may be a 
necessity for an increase in the debt ceiling, but 40 percent could say 
no. Forty percent could hold the country hostage as we saw the country 
was held hostage this year. With this, it would be much easier to hold 
the country hostage because the minority, not a small minority, but 40 
percent could do it.
  Secondly, if the gentleman's answer is correct that the courts would 
exercise judicial restraint and not make decisions on tax increases or 
revenue or spending cuts, then there's no point to this whole amendment 
because you're saying it's unenforceable. Either the amendment is 
enforced by action of the court or it's not enforced.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. The time of the gentleman from Michigan has 
again expired.
  Mr. CONYERS. I yield myself an additional 3 minutes.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Does the gentleman from Michigan wish to 
yield the time to the gentleman from Illinois?
  Mr. CONYERS. I would yield time to the gentleman from Illinois.
  Mr. JACKSON of Illinois. I thank the gentleman, the distinguished 
ranking member, and I thank the chairman for his response, but I want 
to raise a question with Mr. Nadler, a distinguished constitutionalist.
  The courts could mandate, therefore, if Congress failed to pass a 
balanced budget, it could mandate a government shutdown once revenue 
has been expended; is that correct?
  Mr. NADLER. The amendment is silent. All it says is ``this will 
happen.'' ``This must happen.'' When this must happen in our system of 
government, if it doesn't, or if someone thinks it's not going to, they 
go to court and they ask for a court order to make sure it happens.
  The court either will--there are two possibilities and only two. One, 
the court will say, Here's how we'll make an order. We'll raise this 
tax, we'll lower that expenditure; or the court will say, in which case 
you have unelected judges making those decisions--and this amendment 
gives no guidance on how to make those decisions--or the court will say 
as the gentleman from Virginia just suggested the court would do, the 
court will exercise judicial restraint and will say this is a political 
question. We decline to make any order, in which case this amendment is 
not worth the paper it's written on because it's not enforceable at 
  Either it's enforceable by the court saying increase this tax, 
decrease that expenditure, or it's not enforceable and it's a total 
joke. One way or the other.
  Mr. CONYERS. I would like to yield to the distinguished gentleman 
from Virginia, Bobby Scott.
  Mr. SCOTT of Virginia. I thank the gentleman for yielding.
  I think one of the things we're forgetting is that during that 
spectacle last August, the United States lost its triple A credit 
rating, and it was a simple majority.
  I just think you cannot make a serious case that it is fiscally 
responsible to increase the likelihood that we would go through that 
spectacle again.
  The other is we talk about a simple majority for a balanced budget or 
a supermajority for an unbalanced budget. We forget that a serious 
deficit reduction is technically unbalanced and you need three-fifths 
to pass a deficit reduction plan. And if you have a question of three-
fifths to pass a serious deficit reduction or new tax cuts and new 
spending totally irresponsible; and if we know we need three-fifths 
this year to pass a budget, deficit reduction, as you get closer and 
closer, how are you going to get those extra votes?
  Now, the tradition has been you get those extra votes with a little 
pork here, a little pork there; and rather than buying enough pork to 
get to a simple majority, you're going to have to give away enough to 
get to a 60 percent. And so the question is whether the three-fifths 
vote will make it more likely that you're going to have a serious 
deficit reduction or a totally irresponsible budget.
  In my view, I think the experience is it's hard enough to get a 
simple majority to pass meaningful deficit reduction. You will never 
get to three-fifths, so you get your new tax cuts. You get your new 
spending. I'm going to get another aircraft carrier out of it. I don't 
know what you want. But we need to get to three-fifths. You get it by 
more spending and more tax cuts.
  Mr. CONYERS. Could I conclude on this side by asking my friend from 
Virginia (Mr. Goodlatte) if he shares the view offered by Mr. Scott?
  Mr. GOODLATTE. No, I very definitely do not share the view offered by 
my good friend and colleague from Virginia (Mr. Scott).

[[Page H7803]]

  The fact of the matter is the downgrade that we received in the bond 
ratings was due to the fact that we have a $15 trillion debt and the 
Congress has not come to agreement on sufficient reductions in that 
debt to satisfy the bond rating agencies. A balanced budget amendment 
to the United States Constitution is exactly what's needed to put that 
kind of pressure on the Congress to make real and meaningful reductions 
in our deficits.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. The time of the gentleman from Michigan has 
again expired.
  Mr. CONYERS. Could I get some time from the other side to continue 
this discussion?
  Mr. GOODLATTE. I have a lot of Members who are planning to come 
tomorrow to debate this issue, and I'm going to have to reserve our 
time for that purpose.

                              {time}  1910

  Mr. CONYERS. The time is already allotted for tomorrow. The time we 
use tonight will not be put on tomorrow. We have divided the time up, 
so you have a few minutes left if the gentleman cares to share it.

                         Parliamentary Inquiry

  Mr. SCOTT of Virginia. Mr. Speaker, a parliamentary inquiry.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. The gentleman will state his inquiry.
  Mr. SCOTT of Virginia. Can time unused tonight be carried over 
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Time unused tonight can be used tomorrow.
  Mr. GOODLATTE. Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to yield 2 minutes to 
the gentleman from North Dakota (Mr. Berg).
  Mr. BERG. I thank the chairman for yielding.
  One year ago, as House freshmen, we came out here. We were elected to 
change how Washington works.
  When we arrived in Washington, there was one thing we agreed on, and 
that was that our country was on an unsustainable path. As I'm here 
tonight, listening to some of this debate, I'm stunned that the way you 
get 260 votes is with pork. This is what's wrong with Washington. This 
is why it has to change.
  We know the crisis we're in. We've heard that the $15 trillion of 
debt matches our whole country's economy. Fifteen years ago, had we 
passed a balanced budget amendment, America would be the financial 
powerhouse of the globe. We would not be comparing ourselves to Greece 
and comparing ourselves to Europe.
  I strongly believe that the one fundamental thing we can do to change 
the way Washington does business is to have a balanced budget 
amendment. We wouldn't need this amendment if we actually balanced the 
budget. We are at a critical stage in our Nation's history, and 
tomorrow, we have the opportunity to make the future look better--by 
passing this balanced budget amendment.
  This is Congress' opportunity to get it right. We can pass a balanced 
budget amendment, and we can change the course of our country's future. 
It's time. Now is the time for a balanced budget amendment.
  Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Speaker, how much time is remaining?
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. The gentleman from Michigan has 76\1/4\ 
minutes remaining.
  Mr. CONYERS. I yield myself 1\1/4\ minutes, the time allotted us for 
  I think the instructive discussion that we've had here tonight 
illustrates an irreconcilable problem with the requirement that a 
supermajority is necessary under H.J. Res. 2 to raise the debt limit. 
It's frequently difficult enough to raise the debt limit with a simple 
majority, so I'm sure that everyone in this Chamber will realize, by 
raising the requirement by a considerable figure, it is going to make 
it nearly impossible to raise the debt limit.
  We've just gone through a summer of problems of raising the debt 
limit by a simple majority. Now, tonight, we are told that we're going 
to make this a constitutional proposition, which will make it even more 
  Just for the record, for the last time, I yield to the gentleman from 
Virginia for an explanation:
  Would you explain to me how raising the debt limit to a supermajority 
is going to facilitate a more progressive or operative Congress.
  Mr. GOODLATTE. Will the gentleman yield?
  Mr. CONYERS. I yield to the gentleman from Virginia.
  Mr. GOODLATTE. The goal is to balance the budget and to pay down this 
enormous national debt of $15 trillion.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. The time of the gentleman has expired.
  Does the gentleman from Michigan seek to yield himself additional 
time or does the gentleman from Michigan reserve?
  Mr. CONYERS. We have no more time.
  Mr. GOODLATTE. How much time remains on this side of the aisle?
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. The gentleman from Virginia has 88\1/2\ 
minutes remaining.
  Mr. GOODLATTE. I yield myself 30 seconds just to say to the gentleman 
that the only time you're going to need to raise the debt limit is on 
an occasion when you've already voted by a supermajority to not balance 
the budget. Therefore, under those circumstances, it seems entirely 
reasonable to me that you'd also have a supermajority to raise the debt 
  That, I think, is the key to that provision. It's a discipline in 
this bill.
  Mr. JACKSON of Illinois. Will the distinguished chairman yield for 
just one question?
  Mr. GOODLATTE. I yield to the gentleman.
  Mr. JACKSON of Illinois. Mr. Chairman, what is it that qualifies a 
Federal judge to make a decision about the Federal budget process?
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. The time of the gentleman has expired.
  Mr. GOODLATTE. I yield myself an additional 30 seconds to respond to 
the gentleman.
  I will just say to the gentleman that the doctrines that the court 
has imposed upon internal operations of the Congress have historically 
called for judicial restraint, so it will be very rare, in my opinion, 
that you will find courts involved in this process. I believe that 
there is very good material, which we have put into the record in the 
Judiciary Committee, that would reflect upon just that process. This is 
something that the Congress has to resolve for itself, and that's why 
we need it in the Constitution, because the Congress does not resolve 
it now.
  I reserve the balance of my time.
  Ms. RICHARDSON. Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong opposition to H.J. Res. 
2, the proposed Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution of the 
United States, and I appeal to my colleagues to join me in rejecting 
this ill-considered and unwise amendment to the world's greatest 
national charter.
  I oppose the proposed amendment for three principle reasons:
  First, it is unfair, since it would roll back Social Security, 
Medicaid, Medicare, unemployment insurance, nutrition assistance, and 
other programs with expenditures that fluctuate over time.
  Second, it is dangerous, as it would effectively cripple the Federal 
Government's efforts to respond to economic emergencies like the Great 
Depression and the present crisis.
  Third, it will be nearly impossible to enforce, thus opening the door 
to judicial activism and intervention involving every act of Congress 
with a mechanism for raising revenue.
  Worse, the proposed amendment, if ratified, would result in an 
unprecedented transfer of power from the Legislature, the first branch 
of government, to the Judiciary, the third and least accountable 
  At first glance, the balanced budget amendment seems like a good 
idea, but its superficial appeal vanishes when one examines its key 
provisions closely.
  Proponents argue that the Federal Government should be required to 
balance its budget, spending no more than it takes in, like most 
American families.
  The problem with this analogy is that it is simply untrue. In real 
life, most families and businesses do not limit expenditures to the 
amount of revenues. They borrow and take on debt to buy homes, send 
kids to college, and cope with unexpected emergencies.
  Forcibly balancing the federal budget would be like telling families 
that they are prohibited from borrowing or taking out any loan, ever--
no matter how good their credit or how prudent their financing plan may 
be. It bars the government from taking out loans and enforces cuts on 
social programs while making tax cuts to the wealthy a permanent 
  The passage and ratification of H.J. Res. 2 would mean massive cuts 
to Medicare, Social Security, and many other programs. Obligations will 
not be met because there will literally not exist enough money in 
circulation to pay for them.

[[Page H7804]]

  The destruction of these programs is the true aim of this 
legislation. It would force spending cuts by requiring a majority vote 
of the whole number of each chamber for all legislation imposing or 
increasing a tax, while requiring only a simple majority of those 
present to cut out funding for vital social programs.
  Moreover, without deficit spending, programs intended to combat 
economic downturns such as unemployment insurance, Temporary Assistance 
for Needy Families (TANF), and food stamps would be jeopardized. Known 
as automatic stabilizers, these programs grow when the economy dips and 
cushion the blow for those hardest hit by recessions.
  Increased outlays for these programs, which have no set budgets since 
they follow the fluctuations of the economy, will come into direct 
conflict with a balanced budget amendment, meaning harder times for 
those without work.
  Equally bad is that under H.J. Res. 2, necessary stimulus such as the 
New Deal legislation of the 1930s or the Recovery Act of 2009 would be 
nearly impossible to pass. We would have no way to stimulate the 
economy at critical points to respond to downturns of the business 
  The result is that what would otherwise be a mild recession could 
spiral down into a great depression.
  Imagine if the balanced budget amendment was in effect in 2008, when 
this Nation was on the brink of an economic meltdown. Instead of 
rescuing the savings of millions and saving the nation's automobile 
manufacturing industry, the Federal Government would have been busying 
itself with cutting Social Security, national parks, cancer research, 
Medicaid, defense, and hundreds of other programs.
  That was the Hoover response to the Great Depression which was 
repudiated by voters and replaced by Roosevelt's New Deal.
  Like its variants, H.J. Res. 2 is incredibly vague on how it would be 
measured and enforced.
  There is no way to accurately balance the budget, since the 
Congressional Budget Office, whose job it is to predict expenditures, 
is often off by hundreds of billions of dollars a year.
  If revenues fall short because of a projection error, the Federal 
Government could conceivably come to a halt toward the end of the 
fiscal year and stop paying benefits to Social Security.
  I Finally, since it is an amendment to the Constitution, it would 
ultimately fall to the judiciary to define and implement economic 
policy. This will burden the courts with issues that are intrinsically 
political in nature.
  H.J. Res. 2 also comes with an escape clause, whereby under a three-
fifths vote, the provisions of the amendment may be waived. The 
Constitution is a statement of fundamental principles, such as free 
speech and equal protection under the law. The fact the proposed 
amendment can be waived so easily by Congress reveals that this entire 
exercise is merely theater intended by the Republican majority to 
placate its fervent base of Tea Partiers.
  H.J. Res. 2 is a terrible idea and would be bad for our country. I 
urge my colleagues to reject this ill-advised and poorly-conceived 
amendment to the greatest constitution ever devised.
  Mr. BACHUS. Mr. Speaker, families across America have to live within 
their means and balance their budgets. Sometimes it means making hard 
decisions and giving up things that you might like but can't afford. 
For too long, Washington has avoided making those choices. Its practice 
has not been to control spending but to keep borrowing more and more. 
For families, this approach results in bankruptcy. For countries, it 
leads to the financially and socially perilous situation that we are 
seeing in Greece and other debt-ridden nations. It is very clear that 
the only sure way to bring long-term fiscal discipline to Washington is 
to adopt a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution. The Balanced 
Budget Amendment will provide us with a disciplined framework for the 
important decisions on entitlement changes and other spending reforms 
that will be needed to place America on firmer fiscal ground. Amending 
the Constitution is not something that should ever be done lightly. But 
I truly believe that what is at stake here is the financial integrity 
of our country and the future prosperity of our children and 
grandchildren. Our parents left us with a stronger America. We do not 
want to leave them with a weaker one.
  Ms. BROWN of Florida. Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the Ranking Member 
for the time to speak on this horrible legislation. The supposed reason 
for bringing up this amendment is because this country has taken on a 
horrible debt over the last 12 years.
  Let us not forget how we got in this mess. Institutional memory is in 
order. When you have your head in the lion's mouth, you ease it out. 
What happened? How did we get here? When President Clinton left, we 
were operating with a surplus. But we had 8 years of Bush and two wars 
and a deficit of $1.3 trillion.
  Do you think this mess started when President Obama was elected? No, 
it did not.
  We have been practicing what I call reverse Robin Hood for 10 years. 
Nobody remembers what happened here just last December? We gave $800 
billion to not just millionaires, but to billionaires and now you 
complain that we are broke.
  It is all about your priorities.
  Under this balanced budget amendment, elderly citizens are not a 
priority. Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security would have to compete 
against all other federal spending. A balanced budget would require 
Congress to cut all programs by an average of 17.3 percent by 2018. If 
spending cuts are spread proportionately, Medicare would be cut by 
about $750 billion, Social Security by almost $1.2 trillion, and 
veterans' benefits by $85 billion.
  Transportation infrastructure is not a priority. We know for every 
billion dollars that we spend, it generates 44,000 permanent jobs. 
Without transportation infrastructure, we cannot compete on a global 
level. While private businesses and households borrow all the time to 
finance capital spending, a balanced budget amendment would prevent 
federal borrowing to finance any investment expenditures.
  Our priorities are out of whack when we cannot agree to protect those 
who need our help the most: the poor, the working class and the sick.
  I am hoping that the American people will wake up. It is shameful 
that over and over again in the people's House, in the people's House, 
we attack the people who do not have lobbyists on Capitol Hill. And so 
I yield back the balance of my time, but I do know that elections have 
consequences. The American people are watching you.
  Do not support this sham of a policy.
  Vote no on the Balanced Budget Amendment.
  Mr. GENE GREEN of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I oppose this balanced budget 
amendment. It's not because I support reckless spending, deficit 
spending, or believe that we don't have a fiscal problem in this 
country. I oppose this balanced budget amendment because I believe it 
is a heavy handed approach, which has the potential to harm Social 
Security and Medicare recipients and will hamstring our Nation's 
ability to respond to natural disasters, terrorist attacks, and acts of 
  We balanced our budget in the 1990s without a balanced budget 
amendment to our Constitution and we can do it again. Balancing our 
budget is good policy, I am even open to the idea of a carefully 
crafted amendment that will not threaten Social Security and Medicare 
recipients and not endanger our future national security and emergency 
preparedness. The proposal before us today does none of this and is 
just bad policy.
  It is true that our Nation's debt has gotten too big and it is 
projected to expand even more if nothing is done to curtail it. For 
this reason, I support immediate measures to reduce our debt to a level 
that is both manageable and sustainable, which will put our country on 
a path to economic stability and prosperity. I oppose this proposal, 
but look forward to working with my colleagues, Democrat and 
Republican, to find better ways to address our fiscal challenges.
  Mr. MARCHANT. Mr. Speaker, today the House is scheduled to consider 
House Joint Resolution No. 2. This bill proposes a balanced budget 
amendment to the Constitution. I am very proud to be a cosponsor of 
this legislation. The national debt just climbed above $15 trillion. We 
know that Washington should not spend more than it takes in. We know 
this, but we continue to rack up massive yearly deficits. We need a 
balanced budget amendment now more than ever.
  Before being elected to Congress, I served as a city councilman for 4 
years, as a mayor for 2 years, and as a state representative for 18 
years. During my entire twenty-four years of combined state and local 
government service, by law I was always required to have a balanced 
budget. We should mandate the same requirement for the federal 
government that most state and local governments have to produce a 
balanced budget.
  Earlier this year, the Texas Legislature called on Congress to 
propose and submit to the states a balanced budget amendment. I am 
pleased that the House is taking the first step to fulfill this request 
made by Texas and other states. I look forward to continuing the fight 
for its passage and ratification. Our fiscal problems are not getting 
any easier. We cannot simply continue to kick the can down the road. 
The longer that we wait only makes our fiscal problems that much more 
difficult to solve.
  We must act now before we further ruin the economic futures of our 
children and grandchildren. We cannot ignore our fiscal situation any 
longer. The Federal Government must balance its budget. A balanced 
budget amendment is the ultimate solution to our current lack of fiscal 

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  I strongly urge my colleagues to join me in voting in favor of this 
bipartisan resolution.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to section 2 of House Resolution 
466, further consideration of this motion is postponed.