WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent (PA-15) issued the following statement on a Balanced Budget Amendment vote later today in the U.S. House of Representatives:
“Today, the U.S. House of Representatives will vote on an Amendment to the U.S Constitution that is capable of dramatically improving our nation’s long-term fiscal trajectory by ensuring the enactment of balanced budgets. Despite its simplicity – requiring the federal government only spend what it receives annually in revenues - this measure and its potential impact on the United States are substantial.
“In Fiscal Year 2000, federal spending accounted for a fairly reasonable and historically consistent 18.2% of GDP. However, unsustainable spending increased this level to a precariously high 23.8% by Fiscal Year 2010. Absent significant reform, studies (and intuition) tell us this percentage will only continue to rise. Left uncontrolled, our insatiable spending habits have also driven our current debt higher than any point in history – eclipsing 95% of our entire economic output.
“Since January, Congress has taken incremental steps to restore fiscal discipline in Washington through cuts to federal discretionary spending. While undoubtedly valuable and unquestionably necessary, these cuts represent only short-term remedies to long-term problems. This year, Congress has also discussed ways to enact programmatic reforms that achieve solvency without sacrificing effectiveness, but legislation promoting the sustainability of federal programs has failed to garner the bipartisan support needed to advance.
“As the House continues debating the Balanced Budget Amendment (H.J.Res. 2), the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (Super Committee) is working to craft a proposal that will produce at least $1.5 trillion in budget savings. Earlier this month, I sent a bipartisan letter to the Super Committee with 99 of my House colleagues encouraging the panel to ‘go big’ and exceed the $1.5 trillion target, if possible. The Super Committee’s discussions have rightfully placed fiscal responsibility as a top Congressional priority along with job creation.
“In a perfect world, the passage of a Balanced Budget Amendment would not be necessary. Congress would have recognized the looming budget crisis, changed their ways, and began enacting policies to position our nation on a responsible fiscal path. In reality, the implementation of a Balanced Budget Amendment will force elected officials to make the difficult decisions that have been avoided for decades. While the process for achieving a balanced budget will generate reforms that some Americans find difficult to accept, I am certain they pale in comparison to the difficulties we will face under the status quo.
“For many Pennsylvanians, a balanced budget provision is not a new concept. Our Commonwealth has been operating under budgetary requirements similar to those being considered by the House for years. In fact, most Americans are familiar with the balanced budget model, as 49 states currently have a version of the mechanism in place. Although most Americans are comfortable with the balanced budget concept and support its adoption on the federal level, today’s vote in the House will be close.
“I am confident a strong number of my Republican colleagues will support H.J.Res. 2, but it will not pass without significant bipartisan support. Earlier this week, the Blue Dog Coalition, a collection of centrist House Democrats, endorsed the measure with one member calling it, “a common-sense idea whose time has come”. This endorsement, coupled with the longstanding support of liberal Democrats like Rep. Peter DeFazio (OR-4), provides Congress another opportunity to show the American people their elected officials are capable of bipartisan accomplishments.
“In 1995, the Senate was a single vote away from approving a Balanced Budget Amendment that had already passed the House. Today, we have the opportunity to approve a nearly identical measure. While the text of the Amendment has changed little over the course of 16 years, the need for Congress to pass it has grown exponentially. Since entering Congress, I have consistently cosponsored this responsible approach to restoring our fiscal house and I look forward to casting my vote for H.J.Res. 2.”