The winner of the “Most Serious About Deficits” Award goes to Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL). This week, the Alabama Republican proposed a Balanced Budget Amendment with an interesting enforcement provision. The constitutional amendment would require a balanced budget in five years and make any President’s failure to enforce it an impeachable offense.
His Protecting America’s Solvency Act, H.R. 371, would let the debt ceiling rise by $1 trillion after congressional passage of the balanced-budget amendment. The ceiling could rise another $1 trillion after states ratify it.
The bill says the amendment must require federal spending not to exceed the revenue it collects, a goal it must meet after five years. But it does allow Congress to suspend this limit with a four-fifths majority vote, or by a simple majority during wartime.
If there is a shortfall in any given fiscal year, the President would be required to take executive action to cut spending to bring the books into balance. The proposal prohibits the President from raising taxes or taking other steps to raise revenue.
Obviously, the Amendment has little chance of being enacted. It does, however, speak to the growing national frustration over the government’s inability to address its looming fiscal crisis. The federal budget, fueled by expanded entitlement spending, is on a clearly unsustainable path. In a few years, the government will hit a debt level that has historically been associated with lower economic growth in other countries. Reduced economic growth will exacerbate the debt problem, necessitating even more drastic actions in the future to lower the deficit.
Threatening to throw a President out of office if there is a deficit will certainly get some attention. It is important to note, however, that Congress, not the President, controls the purse strings. Every dollar government spends has been approved by Congress.
That fact might warrant a whole host of impeachments.