It never ceases to garner amazement that some people believe an amendment to the Constitution will somehow limit Congress in their exorbitant, extravagant spending.
First, it was the Balanced Budget Amendment, which when analyzed would authorize all of the unconstitutional spending Congress currently engages.
Now, Quin Hillyer, writing for The Washington Examiner, stated, “Congress has wrecked the federal budget so badly that only a constitutional amendment, if even that, can ward off economic catastrophe.”
As described in previous columns, last month’s discretionary spending agreement was so indefensibly exorbitant that it could portend a federal debt crisis of immense proportions. (The likelihood of an economic crash was significantly increased by President Trump’s dangerously foolish March 1 decision to impose large tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.) Perhaps the only thing that could convince debt issuers not to panic would be signs of serious movement towards fiscal rectitude.
What’s needed is not pursuit of the same tired old “balanced budget amendment” idea that has been bandied about for half a century. It will never pass: Liberals hate it, and a large subset of conservatives fear it could either hobble the military or lead to tax hikes.
Also, some of us are loathe to amend the Constitution except at last resort.
Well, we’ve reached the last resort. In lieu of a BBA, a constitutional limit on Congress’ annual ability to spend profligately on domestic programs could slowly ratchet down the debt pressure without making anyone fear harsh consequences or precipitate action. Especially since the new spending baseline is already wildly extravagant by all historical standards, anything that allows inflation-based growth from that baseline should scare nobody.
Congress refuses to follow the laws now. A new amendment will make no difference.
While the reference provided addressed a Balance Budget Amendment, it remains pertinent to the suggestion that Hillyer proposed.
Evidently, Hillyer doesn’t understand a “spending baseline” already exists and any “new spending baseline” reinforces unconstitutional spending.
In that respect, it is similar to the Balanced Budget Amendment in that it authorizes unconstitutional spending, but separates out spending for the Department of Defense, assuring “national security decisions are based on demonstrated need.”
However, the Constitution does not provide for a budget since spending is limited to the enumerated powers, which are short; therefore, the Treasury is able to “publish periodic Statements and Accounts of the Receipts and Expenditures,” pursuant to Article I, Section 9, clause 7.
In this way, it made it simple to monitor federal spending.
But, Congress passed the “unconstitutional Budget & Accounting Act of 1921.”
Since that time, the executive and legislative branches have “been putting into the budget whatever they want to spend money on.”
Hillyer’s amendment suggestion never references the Constitution or the enumerated powers that limits the spending of Congress. But, Hillyer made his case as follows.
The best solution would segregate defense spending so that national security decisions are based on demonstrated need rather than political tradeoffs between the military and domestic purses. It also would eliminate the ability of a Senate minority to filibuster annual spending bills that remain within reasonable limits. It should promote a very strong bias in favor of spending restraint, but should allow at least the chance of a super-duper-majority “escape hatch” for times of great, demonstrated need.
And its goal should be to reduce, to a manageable and sustainable level, the national debt as a proportion of the overall economy. Until 2008, the only time that proportion exceeded 70 percent was during World War II. Although even 70 percent is too high for comfort, it is almost certainly at least sustainable without causing economic collapse – and it’s immensely better than today’s 105 percent.
Hence, I propose the following constitutional amendment – longer than I’d like, at 262 words, but still significantly shorter than Amendments 20 and 25 – which I believe could garner strong-majority public support:
Section 1. The annual Appropriations bill for the Department of Defense shall be considered by the House and the Senate separately from any other Appropriation. It shall be passed by means of a majority vote of each chamber, without need of any supermajority to bring it to a vote, notwithstanding any other procedural rule of either house.
Section 2. The aggregate budget authority for all Appropriations for Discretionary Programs apart from the Department of Defense shall be limited to an annual increase no greater than the official percentage increase in the national Consumer Price Index for the most recent full calendar year, with the following exceptions, and under the following rules of procedure. Rule One:Any Appropriation covered by this Section, and in accordance with the first sentence of this Section, shall be passed by means of a majority vote of each house, and without any need of any supermajority to bring it to a vote, notwithstanding any other procedural rule of either house. Exception One: In any year in which the most recently reported federal debt (including both debt held by the public and intragovernmental debt) is less than 70 percent of the most recently reported Gross Domestic Product, the Appropriation-increase provision in sentence one of this Section shall be doubled, or 10 percent, whichever is less. Exception Two: Notwithstanding any other provision of this Constitution, the limits on budget authority in this section shall be waived upon a 70 percent affirmative vote of the full seated membership (not just of those voting that day) of each house of Congress.
There: Never again, except in emergencies recognized by 70 percent of Congress, could Congress go on a spending spree like the one it approved last month. Never again could it be so easy to hold national security needs hostage to a congressional minority’s desire for more money to throw at favored constituencies.
Granted, the largest driver of the national debt is the basket of “entitlements” not subject to annual congressional spending decisions. But this amendment, if enacted, would restrain Congress from recklessly adding to the fiscal pressures those entitlements cause.
Let’s do it.
NO! This does not need to be done.
First, it doesn’t follow the Constitution, since it references a “budget”, and still allows for unconstitutional spending.
Second, there is no reason to separate defense spending from other spending because Congress should only appropriate funds for the enumerated powers.
Therefore, there should be no debate in Congress on a “budget.”
It begged the question, “is this satire?” One would hope so.
The Constitutional solution to the problem of spending in Congress is to rid the government of unconstitutional agencies – Departments of Education, Energy, Environmental protection, Homeland Security, Agriculture, HUD, Bureau of Land Management, etc., etc.
Moreover, Congress should be limited to the income generated for its appropriation of funds, through “receipts from excise taxes and import tariffs,” to carry out the enumerated powers with shortfalls “being made up by a direct assessment on the States apportioned according to population” (Article I, Section 2, clause 3).
There is no provision in the Constitution that authorized Congress to appropriate money to prop up foreign governments, pay for the bulk of the operation of the United Nations, state governments, health care insurance, bank bailouts, corporate bailouts, corporate subsidies, etc.
Hillyer’s proposal, like the Balanced Budget Amendment, included the same pitfall of authorizing unconstitutional spending but limiting it to “the annual increase no greater than the official percentage increase in the national Consumer Price Index for the most recent full calendar year” with two exceptions.
One of those exceptions allows Congress to waive the limits on budget authority with a 70 percent affirmative vote of all members of both chambers.
Bottom line is any “proposal” or “amendment,” added to the law or Constitution, will not prevent Congress from limiting its spending to the enumerated powers since it will do what it wants regardless until the people correct it.
Until the citizens of this republic recognize the Constitution already limits federal government spending to specific, enumerated powers and Congress, through unconstitutional legislation, has subverted those limitations to place this republic in a precarious debt cliff, inane proposals such as Hillyer’s and the Balanced Budget Amendment will continue to surface, confusing the people, and ensuring future generations a life of being debt slaves – worse than we are today.
When citizens can learn about the Constitution for free through online courses at Hillsdale College and the excellent essays and resources by Publius Huldah, there should be no reason for the citizenry to be duped by charlatans and snake oil salesmen.
Article posted with permission from Freedom Outpost
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