Proposing A Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution

Floor Speech

Date: April 12, 2018
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. WOODALL. Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the recognition. I thank my chairman for bringing this resolution to the floor.

I confess I don't have the kind of speechwriter working for me that my friend from Maryland has. He has always had the gift of prose. I come completely unarmed with clever prose. I have just got some facts on my side.

The truth is, Mr. Speaker, and you have been here long enough to see it, there has been a little bit of truth on both sides of the aisle today.

There is a little bit of frustration that folks say: Hey. How come it is true that we are bringing up a balanced budget amendment in the days after we have just passed a bill that is the largest spending bill that I have seen since I have been in the United States Congress? I think that is a legitimate concern. I think it is a legitimate concern.

Now, I come to the other side of aisle, and folks say: It is because we just passed that spending bill that we have to talk about balanced budget amendments again.


Because the House did its work, as all my colleagues recall. The House did its work underneath the budget caps, on time, before the end of the fiscal year, in the same fiscally responsible way that I have seen this body act over and over and over again in the 7 years I have been here.

Then that bill went across to the United States Senate, where Republicans don't control 60 votes, and it became a partnership bill.

And the frustration that I have heard on both sides of the aisle about the level of spending in that bill happened for one reason, and one reason only: because Democrats voted ``yes,'' and Republicans voted ``yes,'' and a majority of the Congress acted.

What this balanced budget amendment says, Mr. Speaker--and you have read it, and if any Members haven't, it is only 3 pages long, so it is easy to digest--it says: Listen. Spend as much money as you want to.

For all the challenges that my friend from Maryland just recognized, and they are coming again--for folks who believe economic cycles are over, I have bad news. Economic cycles are still in effect. The laws of the economy are still in place, and we are going to have down cycles again.

What this resolution says is, if you want to buy something, agree to pay for it. It seems fair.

If you want to spend something in the name of helping your children, pay for it out of your bank account instead of mortgaging your children's future to pay for it. I think that seems fair.

And the truth is, Mr. Speaker, you know how culture is. Culture is hard to change. For the first 200 years of our Republic, the men and women who ran this Chamber, Republicans, Democrats, they didn't borrow against the Nation's credit card except in times of war.

As you know, it is only at the end of World War II where we saw levels of debt at the size that they are today.

But something has happened culturally in my lifetime where we decided that the responsible thing to do was to spend but not tax.

That is not the responsible thing to do. It is not a responsible liberal thing to do. It is not a responsible conservative thing to do.

Now, Mr. Speaker, you have heard over and over again talk about the big tax cut that happened last year for America. I am glad that happened for America. I am seeing bonuses in paychecks in my constituency back home. I am seeing new businesses open. I am going to more ribbon cuttings. I see excitement and optimism on Main Street in ways I haven't seen it in years. I am excited about that. To my friend from Maryland's point, that is what he referenced in the Clinton administration.

There in the 1990s, Mr. Speaker, we didn't cut a penny in spending. You remember. Congress spent more and more and more and more. But America was enjoying such a great economic boom, all of that money folks were making, turns out you can't pay your income taxes if you are not making an income. Folks were making more money. They were sending more money to the Federal Government. That is how the budget came to balance.

Mr. Speaker, over the next 10 years, after the tax cut--after the tax cut--CBO has just projected tax revenues are going to increase by more than 60 percent.

I will say that again. For folks who want to do more in America, tax revenues are going to increase by 60 percent. The only way, then, we will run a budget deficit is if folks want to spend even more than 60 percent, more than we are spending today.

And guess what, Mr. Speaker. They do. Nobody likes to be lectured in this institution, certainly not by folks who they don't believe have credibility on the issue. And we have heard the word ``hypocritical'' time and time again on the floor, Mr. Speaker. I am sorry that is true.

But my friends on the Democratic side of the aisle will remember our budget process. What I love about the Budget Committee, my friend Ms. Jayapal, we serve there together, and we have amazing opportunities to talk.

Candidly, it is not as collegial as either one of us would like. We shed a whole lot more heat and a lot less light than either one of us would like on that committee. But when we had an opportunity to bring all of our ideas to the floor of the House, every single Democratic plan for Federal spending raised taxes by trillions and reached balanced budgets never in the 10-year window. That is just a fact.

It is okay because we are talking about priorities and where we invest our money, and folks prioritized investments over a balanced budget. That is fair.

Now, on the Republican side of the aisle, every single budget that came to the floor cut taxes and balanced budgets within a 10-year window. That reflects our priorities. We believe in balanced budgets. We believe in cutting taxes.

On the other side of the aisle, folks believe in investments. They believe in borrowing today so we can get greater returns tomorrow. Those are perfectly legitimate conversations to have.

But, Mr. Speaker, my frustration is this. What my friend, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, has brought before us today is a simple resolution that says: Put out your best ideas and let the best idea win; but do not, do not, do not mortgage your children's future because you lack the courage today to pay for it.

We just increased spending on NIH by $3 billion, Mr. Speaker--$3 billion. We are going to do amazing things together as a nation, things that are going to make every American family proud. Cures for diabetes, for Parkinson's, for Alzheimer's. We are going to move the needle for generations to come. We did that together. We both agreed that was an investment that was worth making.

But we are $21 trillion in the hole, Mr. Speaker. There are a bundle of ideas that we can use together to attack that challenge. This is but one, and it is the one we have before us today.

I would just ask my colleagues, recognize that there is more that unites us in our drive and desire to do what is best for the American people than that divides us. Recognize that we all want what is best for America.

If you don't believe in balanced budgets, fair enough, but let's not deride the Judiciary Committee, which has been working on this issue not for a day, not for a week, not for a month, but for years. This isn't the first time we have had this conversation. We missed it by one vote during the Clinton era. This is something that can bring America together and not divide America.

I know this: If we do not come together, Mr. Speaker, come together with the votes required for a constitutional amendment, come together for the votes required to make a courageous change in the direction of Federal spending, it will be to all of our detriments, and sadly, not just our detriments, but to the detriments of our children and our grandchildren as well.

I believe we have a Chamber full of men and women who want to do the right thing for the right reasons, Mr. Speaker. This is a great way to start today.

Mr. Speaker, I thank my chairman for yielding me both the time and for providing the leadership to make this resolution available.