Hello, I’m Senator Olympia Snowe from Maine. In the coming days, the United States Senate will have a long overdue debate and vote on a constitutional amendment to require a balanced federal budget. And let there be no mistake, we have no greater duty than to once and for all obligate the government to live within its means and spend no more than what it takes in.
I have been a longtime champion of a balanced budget amendment in both the House and Senate to prevent precisely the kind of fiscal quagmire we are enmeshed in today, as our federal government borrows an astounding 40 cents of every dollar we spend.
The fact is, debts and deficits do matter. We have now entered what some have called an ‘economic danger zone.’ Our outstanding debt, which has now reached $15 trillion, has stunted economic growth, costing millions of American jobs. Just as disturbingly, the government currently pays a staggering $200 billion per year in interest to foreign countries that hold our treasury bonds—countries like China, and Russia. And that number is projected to increase to $1 trillion per year by 2021.
Indeed, in the three short years since President Obama has taken office, the national debt has increased by nearly $5 trillion. So when the President stated last summer that, ‘We don’t need a constitutional amendment to do our jobs,’ well, not exactly. If Congress were capable of doing its job, it wouldn’t have added nearly $10 trillion to our national debt since 1997, the year a balanced budget amendment failed to pass the Senate by just a single vote. Just imagine where we would be today, if we had accomplished then what we must achieve now.
So let’s be clear. The impending vote to amend the Constitution represents a choice between changing business as usual in Washington, or embracing the status quo that we can no longer afford.
The status quo that has led to an inexcusable 950 straight days without passing a federal budget, the status quo that has brought us the first ever downgrade of America’s sterling triple-A credit rating and the status quo that was exemplified by the so-called supercommittee’s inability to agree on $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction over the next 10 years.
Even the automatic cuts resulting from the supercommittee’s failure to reach an agreement could all be undone by this or any future Congress—unless we pass a balanced budget amendment like those already adopted by 49 other states, which will bind each successive Congress in perpetuity.
Now, I’ve heard all the arguments against this amendment. And we will hear them all again. Some even portray a balanced budget amendment as simply a ‘gimmick’ that isn’t worthy of Congress’ consideration. But I say, if this really were a gimmick, Congress would have passed it a long time ago.
The bottom line is, the real reason many lawmakers don’t want a balanced budget amendment is the exact reason why it’s so essential. They don’t want their hands tied; they want to continue to spend without restraint. Their way has been to break budgets and amass more and more debt, all the while promising Congress will one day balance the budget. Well, as we sadly know, the promises were empty, the debt is astronomical, and their way hasn’t worked. Now, it’s time for our way.
For too long, the burden has fallen to supporters of the balanced budget amendment to justify its necessity. Today, at this moment when our debt has exceeded the size of our entire economy, I ask you, the American people, to place the burden squarely where it belongs—on those who would oppose this measure. In typical Washington fashion, they’re hoping you won’t notice this historic vote is occurring. They are banking on you thinking it doesn’t matter.
Well, with the national debt at $15 trillion and rising, let me suggest there are 15 trillion reasons to prove them wrong. Fifteen trillion reasons to make a stand. Fifteen trillion reasons to contact your Senators and urge them to support our balanced budget amendment, Senate Joint Resolution 10, so that we finally seize the fiscal reins, and reclaim our future for our children and our grandchildren.
Thank you for listening, and may God bless America.
Video from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6KtSqhUNFtM.