Congressmen Cantor & Goodlatte Op/Ed: Change Washington’s Culture Of Spending

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Richmond Times-Dispatch
By Eric Cantor & Bob Goodlatte
July 18, 2011

Imagine if your government were as focused on saving money as it is on spending money.

Flash back to March 2, 1995. On that day, the U.S. Senate failed — by one vote — to send a balanced budget amendment to the states for ratification. The amendment had previously passed the House by the required two-thirds majority, and the Senate vote was the last legislative hurdle before ratification by the states.

If that amendment had passed, then we would not be facing the fiscal crisis we now face. If that amendment had passed, then balancing the budget would have been the rule rather than the exception, and we wouldn't be facing the annual deficits and skyrocketing debt that we must address today.

Once again we are standing at a crossroads. The decisions we make today will determine the direction of our country for years to come. We can take action now to ensure that our children will face a much brighter fiscal future. We must not allow ourselves to miss this opportunity.

We all know that Washington has a spending problem. In recent years, federal spending has increased at an unsustainable pace, allowing our national debt to spiral out of control. The annual deficits and the resulting debt continue to grow due to political pressures and dependence on government programs.

Just as any family or business has to do, Washington needs to learn to live within its means so that we can continue to focus on growing the economy, creating jobs and getting people back to work.

Short-term spending cuts are necessary to begin to get our fiscal house in order but will not be enough without long-term changes. That's why a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution is the only way to ensure that Congress curtails its spending on an annual basis regardless of which party is in control.

This week, the House of Representatives will vote on a three-part balanced budget amendment that would amend the Constitution to (1) require that total spending for any fiscal year not exceed total receipts; (2) require that bills to raise revenues pass each House of Congress by a two-thirds majority; and (3) establish an annual spending cap such that total federal spending could not exceed 18 percent of the economic output of the United States.

On the other side of the Capitol, 47 Republican senators have co-sponsored a similar balanced budget amendment, which is a strong sign that the Senate is ready to engage on this important piece of legislation.

Further, with 49 out of 50 state governments, including Virginia, required to balance their state budgets, we believe that the federal government should be required to do the same.

The fact that Congress is once again debating raising the nation's debt limit demonstrates that we need to cut spending now and put in place enforcement mechanisms to ensure that we spend responsibly down the road.

Together we must make the tough choices necessary to control spending, pave the way for a return to surpluses and ultimately pay down the national debt. A balanced budget amendment would force Congress to do this, make reckless borrowing a thing of the past and secure a much better future for our children and grandchildren.

The choice is ours. The stakes are high. Failure is not an option.

Eric Cantor represents Virginia's 7th District in the U.S. House of Representatives and is House majority leader; Bob Goodlatte represents Virginia's 6th District.

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