Like Captain Ahab and the white whale, U.S. Representative Bob Goodlatte (R-VA6) has singlemindedly sought passage of a balanced-budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Goodlatte has sponsored or cosponsored such an amendment in each Congress since the 103rd (1993-94).
Writing after the recent, narrow defeat of the latest proposal for such an amendment in the House of Representatives (H.J.Res. 2, for which Goodlatte was the principal sponsor), the Roanoke-based congressman said in his weekly op-ed piece, dated November 18:
“It will take real institutional reforms, such as passage of a balanced budget amendment, to ensure that Washington’s insatiable appetite for spending is brought under control. Rest assured that this vote will not be the end. I intend to continue working across the aisle to build even more support for this much needed Constitutional amendment. It is the only way to ensure that Congress curtails its spending on an annual basis regardless of which party is in control.”
In Saturday morning’s Republican response to President Barack Obama’s weekly radio address, Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine reiterated her own support for the balanced-budget amendment cause. (The Republican National Committee made Snowe’s December 3 remarks made available in a news release.)
Snowe pointed out that her endorsement of such an amendment dates back to her time in the House, even before she was elected to the upper chamber in 1994, because it is necessary “to prevent precisely the kind of fiscal quagmire we are enmeshed in today, as our federal government borrows an astounding 40 cents of every dollar we spend.”
The Maine Senator noted that, since President Obama took office in 2009, “the national debt has increased by nearly $5 trillion. So when the President stated last summer that, ‘We don’t need a constitutional amendment to do our jobs,’ well, not exactly. If Congress were capable of doing its job, it wouldn’t have added nearly $10 trillion to our national debt since 1997, the year a balanced budget amendment failed to pass the Senate by just a single vote.”
‘Tie our hands’
Inadvertently echoing former Congressman Tom Perriello (D-VA5), who once told a Charlottesville constituent (in the presence of a video camera), “If you don’t tie our hands, we will keep stealing,” Snowe argued that the “bottom line is, the real reason many lawmakers don’t want a balanced budget amendment is the exact reason why it’s so essential. They don’t want their hands tied; they want to continue to spend without restraint.”
Referring to the number of dollars in the national debt, Snowe suggested there are “[f]ifteen trillion reasons to contact your Senators and urge them to support our balanced budget amendment, Senate Joint Resolution 10, so that we finally seize the fiscal reins, and reclaim our future for our children and our grandchildren.”
Since the House has already rejected the companion legislation to S.J. Res. 10, it is unlikely that the amendment will be passed on to the states for ratification in this session of Congress. Goodlatte, Snowe, and their allies on the issue are laying the groundwork for future action, perhaps after the 2012 congressional elections.