Ken Klukowski

Editors' note: this column was co-authored by Ken Blackwell.

On Mar. 31, Senators Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee introduced a Balanced Budget Amendment (BBA) to make it a constitutional requirement for Washington, D.C., to end our deficit spending and culture of debt. And our national grassroots organization, Pass the Balanced Budget Amendment, is working with them to compel lawmakers to approve this change to the Supreme Law of the Land.

The BBA requires that the U.S. cannot spend more than it takes in, making the federal government act just like most state governments, and for that matter just like all of you reading this column.

There are a few emergency exceptions, such as allowing two-thirds of the House and Senate to suspend it for a specific reason for one year, with lower thresholds to respond to a military threat to our national security or an official, declared war against a specific nation (not some open-ended or global military operation).

But with the exception of an all-out war, those exceptions only apply if there's the political will for a supermajority of Congress to support it. If those of us who fought to get the right people elected in 2010 keep those efforts up in 2012 and beyond, then we can finally force Congress to live within its means.

The amendment is cosponsored by all 47 Senate Republicans. This raises eyebrows in that the last time a proposed BBA was voted on, 1997, it enjoyed Democratic support with 66 votes, falling a single vote short in the Senate. (It also means that we need some solid constitutional conservatives to win a few more Senate seats.)

A separate story here is Utah’s leading role. That state’s senior senator, Orrin Hatch, designed one version of the BBA. Utah’s junior senator, Mike Lee, designed another. Both senators—one tied as the most senior Republican in the chamber and the other among the newest—then designed a composite version.

The resulting BBA addresses several major economic priorities. In addition to forcing a balanced budget, the BBA caps federal spending at 18% of GDP. It also requires a 60% vote to raise the national debt limit. It requires a two-thirds vote to raise taxes. And in forbids courts from ordering any tax increase. The BBA thus addresses multiple aspects of fiscal policy in a full-spectrum response to America’s debt-and-deficit nightmare.


Ken Klukowski

Ken Klukowski is a bestselling author and Townhall’s legal contributor covering the U.S. Supreme Court, and a fellow with the Family Research Council, American Civil Rights Union, and Liberty University School of Law.