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October 2016 Policy Study, Number 16-3


How To Restore Federal Fiscal Sanity: The State Legislatures Hold The Key


Why Do State Legislatures Hold The Key To Winning The Balanced Budget Amendment?



Will Congress propose the BBA without pressure from State Legislatures?


Many members of Congress, in both parties, sincerely work for the BBA.  They admit that spending and debt are out of control and that they need the discipline of this amendment.


But many others work equally hard against it.  They put their self-interest first. They use deficit spending to buy their reelection.  Many powerful and senior members of Congress fight hard against any attempt to restrain their unlimited spending and unlimited borrowing.


In spite of overwhelming public support, it is hard to get a two-thirds vote in both Houses of Congress for a Balanced Budget Constitutional Amendment.


The BBA came closer than ever in 1995 – it received House passage for the first time ever, and the Senate fell one vote short of the necessary two-thirds.


However, there are huge obstacles to BBA passage.  A strong bipartisan majority in Congress –but not yet two-thirds – genuinely want a BBA.  Some of our votes must come from politicians who don’t want a BBA and will only vote for it reluctantly in response to pressure from the people and State Legislatures through Article V resolutions.


Opponents cook up fraudulent substitutes, more loopholes than limits.  This gives cover to tricksters who vote for the fake, vote against the real BBA, and then claim, “I voted for a BBA.”


In the 1995 vote, six Senators who had strongly supported the BBA in their election campaigns flip-flopped and voted against it.  Some Senators vote for the real BBA in an election year, then vote against it after they are safely reelected for six years. 


If the states fail to use their right under Article V, there is grave danger that Congress will continue stalling on the BBA.


Then State Legislative resolutions under Article V calling for a Balanced Budget Amendment and a limited convention to propose it are essential to getting Congress to act?


Definitely.  The U.S. Constitution provides only one way to compel a reluctant Congress to act on a Constitutional Amendment that the people and the State Legislatures want.


That one way is for 34 States to adopt a resolution asking Congress to either propose a specific amendment or to call a limited constitutional convention to propose only this one amendment.


The State Legislatures used this method to win the Constitutional Amendment for direct election of U.S. Senators.  Congress finally proposed the amendment in 1912, but only after 30 of the 31 needed states (31 were then required to meet the two-thirds requirement) had passed convention resolutions for the direct election amendment.


So if I want a balanced federal budget, what is the most important thing I can do?


Help your State Legislature adopt the standard resolution which asks Congress to propose a Balanced Budget Constitutional Amendment and also calls for a limited constitutional convention to propose only this one amendment, if Congress fails to act.


Once your State Legislature has adopted this resolution, defend and preserve it against all attacks.  Keep your state standing fast for the only effective way to require a balance budget.




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