WASHINGTON – Today, with the full backing of the Senate GOP Caucus, Senator Lee introduced an amendment to the Constitution to balance the federal budget. Sponsored by fellow Utah Senator Orrin Hatch and four others as principle cosponsors, the Hatch-Lee Balanced Budget Amendment is one of the most significant pieces of legislation introduced this year aimed at putting the country on a path to fiscal sustainability.
The central component of the bill states that total spending for the fiscal year must not exceed total receipts and must not exceed more than eighteen percent of the economy, as measured by gross domestic product.
Only a two-thirds vote by the House and Senate would allow Congress to run a deficit for a “specific excess” or raise taxes. Additionally, the amendment stipulates that a three-fifths vote would be necessary to increase the debt limit.
Two other very limited exceptions to the amendment allow spending in excess of receipts during a national security emergency or during a time of war. Three-fifths of Congress would be required to vote for a specific excess during a military conflict declared to be an imminent and serious military threat to our national security; and a just a simple majority vote would be needed during a declared war. The law becomes effective five years after ratification.
“When it comes to spending, Congress has proven it cannot be trusted to live within its means or spend only what the federal government takes in,” said Senator Lee. “Our annual deficit approaching $1.7 trillion and national debt of almost $15 trillion are a significant threat to our economy, job growth, and future prosperity. Only a structural restraint on spending, like a constitutional amendment, will force Congress to make the tough decisions about our national priorities and prevent digging the country deeper in debt.”
Once the bill is voted on and approved by two-thirds of Congress, it must then be ratified by three-fourths of all state legislatures to become an amendment to the Constitution. A bill earlier this year sponsored by Senator Lee expressing support for a balanced budget amendment received 58 votes in the Senate. All 47 Senate Republicans are supporting the amendment.Communications Director Brian Phillips Brian_phillips@lee.senate.gov (202) 224-5444
Press Secretary Emily Bennion Emily_bennion@lee.senate.gov (202) 224-3904