The U.S. House's new Republican majority is renewing a discussion about whether the U.S. Constitution should be amended to require a balanced budget in most years, a legal debate that has largely been dormant for more than a decade.
A House Judiciary subcommittee is holding a hearing on the subject today. At issue is whether federal deficits have gotten so large and persistent that Congress and the states should take the rare step of writing tax and spending restrictions into the centuries-old document.
Though ideas for amending the Constitution are frequent, including suggested bans on flag-burning and proposed repeals of the 16th and 17th Amendments, today’s hearing is the first that the House Judiciary Committee has held this year on any of the various proposals.
Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), reading aloud a letter that Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1798, said the idea has been around almost since the Constitution’s ratification. Goodlatte is sponsoring two proposed amendments to balance the budget. “We need to have the strongest rule possible to restrain the desires of Congress,” he said.
At least one Democrat said the amendment would be improper. Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) said it would “enshrine in our Constitution particular views about the economy and spending” that should be left to later generations to debate. “My Republican friends love constitutional amendments. For any problem, there’s a constitutional amendment,” Nadler said.
Click here for copies of the prepared testimony from the hearing.