Speeches and Statements

SPEECH: Rep. Murphy Floor Statement on H.J. Res. 2, a Balanced Budget Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

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Washington, April 12, 2018 | comments

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

When the federal government spends far more than it receives, year after year, it threatens the long-term stability of our economy, compromises our children’s future, and undermines our security.

Amending the Constitution to require a balanced budget is a serious step, but one that has become appropriate. That is because all other efforts to make Congress demonstrate a reasonable degree of fiscal discipline have failed.

But not all proposed balanced budget amendments, or BBAs, are created equal.

The BBA we are considering today—and I say this with respect for my colleagues on the other side of the aisle—is poorly crafted, painfully cruel, and profoundly cynical.

It is poorly crafted because it is excessively rigid. For example, it does not allow federal lawmakers to run even small deficits to help the country emerge from a recession or depression. That is bad economic policy that will hurt working families.

It is cruel because it would allow a federal court, if called on to enforce the BBA, to order cuts to Social Security and Medicare payments, harming seniors who have earned their benefits through a lifetime of hard work.

And it is cynical because House leadership is bringing this bill to the floor after it enacted a tax law that doesn’t do enough to help the middle class and small businesses, and that will explode our nation’s deficits and debt.

In fact, in a sobering new report, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that our annual deficit will exceed $1 trillion within two years. CBO also estimates that the debt-to-GDP ratio will approach 100 percent within a decade—a dangerous figure not witnessed since the immediate aftermath of World War II.

It is hard to avoid the conclusion that this BBA is a superficial exercise in political messaging, rather than a serious effort to address a severe problem.

This is a real shame. Because we must tackle this problem. Not as Democrats or Republicans, but as patriotic Americans concerned about the future of the country we love.

That is why, last June, I filed my own BBA, which has been endorsed by the Blue Dog Coalition. I believe my bill is a far better approach to the problem than the bill we are considering today.

My bill generally prohibits the federal government from spending more than it receives in a fiscal year, but does not dictate how lawmakers should bring receipts and outlays into balance. We must examine the problem in a holistic manner, and make the tough but necessary choices our constituents elected us to make.

My bill contains provisions to protect Social Security and Medicare. Unlike the bill before us, it would not balance the budget on the backs of those who built our economy.

And my bill recognizes that there are times when running a deficit is necessary or sensible, like when our nation is engaged in a military conflict or mired in an economic slump. Therefore, the bill authorizes an exception to the balanced budget requirement when Congress declares war, when GDP does not grow for two consecutive quarters, or when unemployment exceeds seven percent for two straight months. In addition, a supermajority of the House and Senate may vote to authorize outlays to exceed receipts in other circumstances.

In short, the goal is not to make annual deficits impossible, but to make it harder for policymakers to sacrifice the long-term stability of our economy for the sake of short-term gain. If the federal government is going to spend more than it receives, that decision should be taken in a deliberate and bipartisan fashion—and not merely because it is politically expedient.

My broader goal in filing a BBA is to spur an honest conversation in Congress, in my central Florida district, and around the country about the consequences—for both our economy and our national security—of piling deficit upon deficit.

It is clear our country must change course.

We still have time to act.

The question is: do we have the courage to act?

Thank you, and I yield back. 

Click here for a PDF version of the speech.

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