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Holding Congress and the President accountable to the American people

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By Congressman Bob Goodlatte

Last week, in the opening hours of the 111th Congress, I introduced bipartisan legislation that would amend the United States Constitution to force Congress to rein in spending by balancing the federal budget.  I am pleased that over 130 Members of the House, Republicans and Democrats alike, have signed on in support of my legislation, House Joint Resolution (H.J. Res) One, which ensures that the federal government is held accountable and that the money our citizens work so hard to earn is not squandered on wasteful spending and programs. 

My balanced budget amendment, which is identical to the legislation that passed the House in 1995 by a vote of 300-132 and fell just two votes short of passage in the Senate, forces Congress to enact fiscally responsible spending measures and reduce the deficit by requiring that total spending for any fiscal year not exceed total receipts.  The legislation also includes a specific exception to the balanced budget provisions in times of war, serious threats to our national security or other national emergencies such as our current economic crisis. 

It has become clear that it is extremely difficult for Congress to agree on a budget that is fiscally responsible.  However, in these challenging economic times it is even more important for government to control spending. The federal government must work to both eliminate every cent of waste and squeeze every cent of value out of each dollar our citizens entrust to it.  Families all across our nation understand what it means to make tough decisions each day about what they can and cannot afford, and Congress should not be allowed to ignore these tough decisions in the name of political expediency when creating spending policies for the federal government.  With forty-nine out of fifty state governments, including Virginia, required to balance their state budgets, people are amazed that the federal government is not restrained in this way and strongly support a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

As our nation faces many difficult decisions, Congress will face great pressure to spend beyond its means rather than making difficult decisions about spending priorities.  My balanced budget amendment ensures that Congress and the President are held accountable to the American taxpayers.  Unless Congress is forced to make the decisions necessary to create a balanced budget, it will always have the all-too-tempting option of shirking this responsibility.  Americans are desperate for fiscal reform and the Balanced Budget Constitutional amendment is a common sense approach to ensure that Congress is bound by the same fiscal principles that America’s families face each day.