McAdams Proposes Balanced Budget Amendment, Blue Dog Coalition Endorses

April 9, 2019 by Dan McCue
Representative Ben McAdams.

The Blue Dog Coalition of fiscally-responsible Democrats, has endorsed a Balanced Budget Amendment authored by Representative Ben McAdams, the co-chair of the organization’s task force on fiscal responsibility and government reform.

McAdams, a Democrat from Utah, is the first to introduce a Balanced Budget Amendment during the 116th Congress.

“At a time when we face $1 trillion annual deficits, and both parties punt on even trying to pass a budget blueprint, we need to consider a new structure to force fiscal discipline,” McAdams said. “With this bill, I’m saying let’s stop ignoring the issue and start talking about how to address it.”

The Blue Dog Coalition’s endorsement of McAdam’s bill came on a fractious Tuesday for House Democrats who saw an anticipated Wednesday vote on spending limits for the year pulled after members of the party’s left wing demanded more money for non-defense spending.

“I don’t think we’d have the votes if we went to the floor right now,” said Budget Committee Chairman John Yarmuth, D-Ky.

The bill at the center of the disagreement would have increased defense spending in 2020 by $17 billion and non-defense spending by $34 billion, bringing the totals to $664 billion for defense and $631 billion for non-defense spending.

But the progressives wanted an additional $33 billion added to the spending plan. Without it, they threatened to vote against the legislation.

Members of the Blue Dog Coalition objected, saying it would be irresponsible to add the spending to the bill.

According to the U.S. Treasury, the national debt now stands at just over $22 trillion — the highest it has ever been — having increased 10 percent since President Trump took office in January 2017.

McAdams’ bill would amend the U.S. Constitution to prohibit the federal government from spending more than it receives in any given fiscal year, except in the cases of war or recession.

It also requires the president to annually submit to Congress a budget in which total outlays do not exceed total receipts.

But the Amendment does include some safeguards to the social safety net. For instance, it prohibits courts enforcing its requirements from ordering cuts to Social Security or Medicare payments to balance the budget.

The balanced budget requirement would not apply if a declaration of war were in effect or if the United States is engaged in military conflict.

It also would not apply if, during the current or previous fiscal year, the U.S. economy grew by less than 0 percent in real GDP during two or more consecutive quarters, or if the unemployment rate exceeds 7 percent during two or more consecutive months.

As is the case with all proposed Constitutional amendments, before McAdams’ bill can go into effect, it will have to pass Congress with a two-thirds majority vote in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, and be ratified by three-fourths, or 38 of 50, of the states.

The President does not have a constitutional role in the amendment process.

“It’s clearer than ever that the only way Congress will be able to produce a balanced budget is if it is required to do so by law,” said Representative Lou Correa, D-Calif., Blue Dog co-chair for communications. “Washington needs to have a serious, bipartisan discussion about our nation’s fiscal state. Republicans and Democrats need to come together now to make tough decisions, and Representative McAdams’ Balanced Budget Amendment is a step in the right direction to putting our nation on a fiscally sustainable path. If we don’t address these problems, every single American will face serious economic repercussions.”

The House on Tuesday did successfully pass a rule that would allow members of the Congressional appropriation committee to begin piecing together spending legislation at the cap levels outlined in the spending bill.

On a bipartisan note, Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., announced that Democrats and Republicans would form a staff-level working group to negotiate a final spending deal.

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