Lee Delivers Maiden Speech, Urges Balanced Budget Reform

March 1, 2011

WASHINGTON—Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) today delivered his first official speech on the Senate floor, focusing on the need to pass a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution. Lee has been a staunch advocate for structural budgetary restraints that will hold Congress accountable for how it spends taxpayer resources. The speech included a call to move past the traditional partisan divides over spending and make the tough choices to reduce the country’s massive national debt.

“In the past there has been a great debate between, on the one hand, some Republicans who have been unwilling to cut some programs - to consider in any context cuts in the area of, say, national defense. You've had others who perhaps from the other party have been unwilling to consider any cuts to any entitlement program.

“But we're now faced with a scenario in which both sides of the aisle can understand that our perpetual deficit spending habit places in jeopardy every single aspect of the operations of the federal government.

“We now face a moment when both liberals and conservatives, Republicans and Democrats, regardless of what they most want to protect most in their federal government, have to realize that what they most want to protect is placed in grave jeopardy by our current spending practices.

“I'm troubled by the fact that as we approach debate surrounding a continuing resolution, this week a continuing resolution is likely to operate for just a few weeks to keep the government funded, we're still talking about adding on an annualized basis to our national debt at $1.5 trillion a year.

“I think the American people deserve better. I know that they demand better. And some of the things that we saw in the 2010 election cycle portends something greater than what we're going to see in the 2012 election cycle. Americans want Congress to balance the budget and they want us to do something about it, more than just talking about it.

“Benjamin Franklin used to say, ‘He'll cheat without scruple, who can without fear.’ I think the congressional corollary to that might be that Congress, which can continue to engage in perpetual deficit spending, will continue to do unless or until the people require that Congress to put itself in a straitjacket. That's the straitjacket we need. That's why I'm proposing this [Balanced Budget] Amendment.”

Senator Lee has recently introduced a “sense of the Senate” amendment to a bill being debated in the Senate today that would put Members on record as supporting or opposing a nonspecific Balanced Budget proposal.

Lee’s specific constitutional amendment, SJ Res 5, cosponsored by Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona, includes the following three pillars: (1) requiring a balanced budget for each fiscal year, (2) limiting federal spending to no more than 18 percent of GDP, and (3) requiring a two-thirds vote in both Houses of Congress in order to increase taxes, raise the debt ceiling, or run a specific deficit in a particular year.