Excerpted from The Hill: Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) this week proposed a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution that would make the president’s failure to enforce that amendment an impeachable offense.
His Protecting America’s Solvency Act, H.R. 371, would let the debt ceiling rise by $1 trillion after congressional passage of the balanced-budget amendment. The ceiling could rise another $1 trillion after states ratify it.
The bill says the amendment must require federal spending not to exceed the revenue it collects, a goal it must meet after five years. But it does allow Congress to suspend this limit with a four-fifths majority vote, or by a simple majority during wartime.
If a budget deficit occurred for any other reason, the president would have to take “such steps as are necessary” to avoid it. Failure would leave him open to impeachment.
“The President may not order any increase in taxes or other revenue measures to enforce the Amendment,” the bill reads. “A President’s failure to prevent a prohibited fiscal year deficit is an impeachable offense.”
In an interview with The Hill, Brooks said he believes putting that kind of pressure on the president is needed to ensure the government avoids a deficit.
“Most states have a balanced-budget requirement,” he said. “In all states, it’s incumbent on the governor to ensure that spending equals revenue during the fiscal year.
“I have learned from experience that unless there is penalty … there is a significant risk that the executive, or for that matter the Senate or the House, won’t do it.”
Brooks said that because the bill would require a balanced budget to be passed in most years, any budget deficit that evolves over the fiscal year would likely be due to revenue shortfalls. Those shortfalls would likely be small and easily managed by the executive branch, he said.
Brooks said the issue of how to control the debt and deficit will only become more critical over time, especially given that each increase in the debt ceiling also adds to the government’s annual interest payments.
“Every time Washington increases the debt ceiling, more and more current revenue is devoted to debt service, rather than appropriate federal government functions,” he said. “So the situation just keeps getting worse and worse.”
Passage of the No Budget, No Pay Act effectively raises the debt ceiling by another $300 billion to $400 billion, which will tack on billions more per year in interest payments.
“That’s another six to eight billion dollars no longer available to provide needed services to the American people,” he said.