Friday, March 15, 2013

GOP Pushes Balanced Budget Amendment

There are currently two bills circulating the US House of Representatives calling for a Balanced Budget Amendment to the US Constitution.

Given that Congress and the president have failed to produce a budget since Bush was still in office, it is apparent that more now than ever a Balanced Budget Amendment is necessary. This is further aggravated by the unfathomable fact that the US National Debt is rapidly approaching $17 Trillion. Even with the so-called "sequester" budget cuts, the federal government still overspends its income by $974 Billion this fiscal year.

Rep. Paul Broun of Georgia can be an inviting target of ridicule, especially when he makes statements about the Earth being only 6,000 years old. However, once in a while he backs legislation that redeems his role in Congress. March 14, 2013, Rep. Broun proposed House Joint Resolution 35 (HJR 35) calling for a Balanced Budget Amendment to the US Constitution.

Here is the primary text of HJR 35:


Article--

    `Section 1. Total outlays for any fiscal year shall not exceed total receipts for that fiscal year, unless two-thirds of the whole number of each House of Congress shall provide by law for a specific excess of outlays over receipts by a roll call vote.
    `Section 2. The limit on the debt of the United States held by the public shall not be increased, unless two-thirds of the whole number of each House shall provide by law for such an increase by a roll call vote.
    `Section 3. Outlays for the total budget may not exceed the previous fiscal years' outlays plus population growth and inflation, unless two-thirds of the whole number of each House shall provide for such increase by a roll call vote.
    `Section 4. Prior to each fiscal year, the House of Representatives shall develop a proposed budget for the United States Government for that fiscal year in which total outlays do not exceed total receipts.
    `Section 5. No bill to increase revenue shall become law unless approved by two-thirds of the whole number of each House by a roll call vote.
    `Section 6. The Congress may waive the provisions of this article for any fiscal year in which a declaration of war is in effect, with a vote of a majority of both houses.
    `Section 7. The Congress shall enforce and implement this article by appropriate legislation, which may rely on estimates of outlays and receipts.
    `Section 8. All outlays above revenues from the previous fiscal year must be accounted for in the outlays and budgets of the following fiscal year.
    `Section 9. All surplus revenues at the end of a fiscal year shall be allocated to a fund to be returned to the taxpayers. The method of return to the taxpayers must be determined by legislation before the end of the subsequent fiscal year.
    `Section 10. 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 including those for debt service and other debt functions.
    `Section 11. This article shall take effect beginning with the second fiscal year beginning after its ratification.'.

Rep. Scott Perry, who represents Pennsylvania's 4th Congressional District also proposed a similar resolution, HJR 36. The most glaring difference between the two resolutions is HJR 36's Section 5. Section 5 requires each department of the government to submit justification for any proposed funding request. This particular stipulation may draw some resistance from supporters of the intelligence community. Many times, the justification of these funds would necessitate disclosure of classified information that is above the access level most members of congress do not have the security clearance to review.

Both resolutions contain a "safety valve" waiving the requirements in times of war or severe threat to national security.

Here is the main amendment proposed by HJR 36 for comparison:

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, but in no event shall total outlays for any fiscal year exceed the following: for the first fiscal year for which this article takes effect, 20 percent of the estimated gross domestic product of the United States for that year, and for each subsequent fiscal year, a percentage of the estimated gross domestic product equal to the applicable percentage for the preceding fiscal year reduced by .1 percentage point. Under this section, total spending for any fiscal year is not required to be less than 16 percent of the estimated gross domestic product of the United States.
    `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 three-fifths majority of the whole number of each House by a rollcall vote.
    `Section 5. Any budget plan for a fiscal year for the Government submitted by the President to the Congress shall include a justification by each department or agency of the Government for any funding proposed for that department or agency in that plan. The justification shall include a justification each line item in the budget of that department or agency based upon its effect on carrying out its mission and its effect, if any, on the gross domestic product of the United States and an additional funding level below the requested number that would allow that department or agency to complete all of its critical mission functions.
    `Section 6. 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 7. The Congress shall enforce and implement this article by appropriate legislation, which may rely on estimates of outlays and receipts.
    `Section 8. 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 or after any event which causes an imminent and serious military threat to national security and is so declared by a joint resolution or during which a natural disaster is declared by a joint resolution, adopted by a vote by two-thirds of each House, which becomes law.
    `Section 9. This article shall take effect beginning with the earlier of the tenth fiscal year beginning after its ratification or the first fiscal year beginning after any fiscal year in which the budget of the United States is not in deficit.'.

In addition, Rep. Ron Desantis of Florida's 6th CD proposes further fiscal responsibility. HR 1181 is a bill that, if passed, would cut congressional salaries by 8.2%. The text of the bill is not yet available for public review. However, it would be monumental if this legislation were to pass.