Representatives of the Compact Commission of the Compact for a Balanced Budget, an interstate agency promoting a national constitutional amendment convention resolution, testified before the U.S. House of Representatives’ Judiciary Committee.
Compact for America Educational Foundation President and Executive Director Nick Dranias joined Princeton University economics professor Alan Blinder and other experts to explain the amendment convention process and the need for a balanced-budget amendment, at a July 28 hearing convened by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA).
Article V of the U.S. Constitution establishes methods for proposing and enacting amendments. After 34 states call for an amendment convention, the gathering of commissioners selected by the states is limited to consideration of one or more amendments specified in the initial call.
Currently, five states have approved Compact for America’s resolution.
A ‘Compact Approach’
Calling for an amendment convention with an interstate compact is a simple path through a complex process, says Dranias.
“The compact approach to Article V makes the path to reform quicker, easier, and more certain than ever before,” Dranias said. “It allows states to agree in advance to everything they control in the amendment process in a single bill, passed once. It allows Congress to fulfill its entire role in the amendment process in a single resolution, passed once.”
Dranias says the compact’s balanced budget amendment process is self-executing.
“Our compact has a provision that says the state legislature ratifies the balanced budget amendment, if and when it is proposed and referred by Congress,” Dranias said. “It’s dormant now, but the moment that it is proposed and referred out for ratification by state legislatures, it’s activated. That latter part, the ‘if it is proposed’ part, is called a conditional enactment.”
Addicted to Spending
Mississippi state Rep. Greg Snowden (R-Lauderdale), a Compact for America commissioner, says balanced budget amendments are the only way to break governments’ addiction to spending.
“Spending is like crack cocaine for governments, regardless of the level,” Snowden said. “If government has money, it will always find something considered worthwhile to spend it on. Government cannot help itself. Asking a government, any government, to spend less is like asking the sun to stand still in the sky.”
Skin in the Game
Both conservatives and liberals have reasons to support balancing the federal budget, Snowden says.
“When, not if, the uncontrolled national debt crunch puts the brakes to federal spending, you can bet that the very first thing Congress will cut back and eliminate is discretionary expenditures to the states,” Snowden said. “For fiscal conservatives, supporting a legitimate national debt-control measure should be a no-brainer. For more progressive folks who enjoy lining up at the federal trough, there also is a powerful practical incentive to support a soft landing, as opposed to the quite predictable crash into the mountain which necessarily will occur unless some outside agency—the states—steps up with a solution.”