Constitutional Route Becoming Popular

Given the present economic and political climate, many are eying Constitutional changes to help improve the budget situation.

In yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, Representatives Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) and Mike Pence (R-IN) proposed a Spending Limit Amendment to the Constitution. The amendment would limit federal spending to one-fifth of the economy. The limit could only be waived by a two-thirds vote in Congress or a declaration of war.

Hensarling and Pence are not alone in going the constitutional route. Earlier this week, the Blue Dogs announced a Balanced Budget Amendment that would “require the federal government to pay down the national debt and balance the budget by 2020.” The Blue Dogs have been rolling out a number of excellent budget process reform ideas as part of their Blueprint for Fiscal Reform, and while CRFB’s board is divided about whether the time has come for a BBA, the proliferation of budget disciplining mechanisms is heartening.

The Blue Dog amendment joins another Balanced Budget Amendment proposal (H.J. Res. 1) that has 175 sponsors in the House and 15 in the Senate. Lawmakers such as Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO) are actively pushing this proposal.

None of these ideas replace the need for specifics: a spending cap, a BBA, or a debt stabilization goal such as we have recommended, all require that Members then turn their attention to specifics (à la Paul Ryan Roadmap form). We have developed a blueprint – or one option for achieving our goal and will be highlighting specific budget improvements all year. We encourage members of Congress to start moving in that direction as well.