Senator John ThuneIt was 1997 and I was a freshman member of the U.S. House of Representatives. My Republican colleagues on the other side of the Capitol in the U.S. Senate were busy forming a coalition to move a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution through Congress.
I was a cosponsor of the House version of their balanced budget amendment, which earned a considerable amount of support but ultimately fell just one vote short and died in the Senate on March 4, 1997.
Today we find our country in a fiscal crisis. Our national debt has gone from $5 trillion in 1997 to over $14 trillion today. February marked the highest deficit on record for a single month at $223 billion, and the national unemployment rate remains near nine percent. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, has stated that, "Our national debt is our biggest national security threat."
I can't help but think that our country would be in a better place today had the Senate passed a common-sense amendment over 10 years ago that would have required Congress to balance the budget.
Senators now have another real opportunity to pass legislation that would restore accountability to Washington's budget process, while reining-in out-of-control federal spending.
I recently joined with every Republican member of the Senate to introduce a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. This amendment would require the president to submit a balanced budget to Congress each year that limits spending to 18 percent of the country's gross domestic product. Congress would then be required to approve budget, spending, and tax bills that meet these guidelines.
All 47 Senate Republicans recognize the immediate need for Congress and the president to abide by the same rules that families across America are required to play by and live within their means.
In fact, most states across the country, including South Dakota, are required by state laws to balance their budget every year-Washington should too.
As we proceed with this debate, I call on my Democrat colleagues to join us in taking meaningful action to curb the explosive growth in government spending and borrowing through common-sense budget reforms.