Floor Speech in Support of a Balanced Budget Amendment

Jul 11, 2011

Congressman James Lankford (R-OK) delivered the following remarks in support of a balanced budget amendment.

Watch the video of the floor speech here      

"Nineteen years ago my wife and I married. I was still in school, I was working as much as I could, she was also working, but we were barely making it, but we made the decision, we were not going to run up credit card debt and live beyond our means. We paid our school loans, we tied to our church, we ate a lot of peanut butter, and we lived simply. As Dave Ramsey said, we determined to act our wage.

"It’s a biblical principal for myself and my family; Proverbs 22:7 states, “The borrower is a slave to the lender”. Proverbs 22 applies to families, and Proverbs 22 applies to nations. If we were living within our means as a nation, almost all the debate in the last six months in this chamber would have been different.

"We’ve tried every method in the fed’s bag of tricks to protect our interest rate, because if the rate goes up at all, the house of cards falls. We work to manipulate banks, mortgage lending, manufacturing- because we must keep revenue up. We carefully manage every relationship worldwide because we need the borrowing liquidly. We pour billions of dollars into the economy that we borrow from future generations because we’re afraid this generation will have to make hard choices if we do not keep up the borrowing pace.

"Our economy struggles, which leads Washington regulators to over manage every sector, which causes even more economic uncertainty. Our focus has shifted from families to corporate bail outs because we’re living beyond our means, and we’re trying everything we can to make it work.

It’s not sustainable. We have to get back in balance. Capital investment in business and industry is slower because so much of the money that would go towards starting new businesses is actually financing our national debt obligation. There’s only a limited amount of money in the world economy at any one moment to subsidize our debt and the debt of other nations around the world. When we consume that money for our debt payments, we remove it from the market.

"America is the world leader, unfortunately, we have led the world in debt in deficit spending, and now it’s time we lead the world in how to solve a debt crisis. You see, I believe we have a debt crisis, not a debt ceiling vote crisis. If we increase the debt ceiling without beginning to solve the debt problem, we did not avert the economic disaster, we accelerated the disaster.

"I understand. We’re painted into a corner and we cannot balance our budget instantly without completely collapsing this fragile economy, I get it. But I also get that we were sent here to make adult choices. This is a bipartisan problem. We all point fingers at each other, but we all know both parties made promises with no plan to pay for it. So since know that, why don’t we also agree to a bipartisan solution?

"I’ve heard it a hundred times since I’ve been here, “we need a balanced approach to solving this problem”. Well, let me tell you, I agree. We do need a balanced approach, a balanced budget amendment approach. That is the first big step to forcing us to get back into balance, permanently.

"The constitutions not a republican or a democrat document, a balanced budget amendment is not a republican or a democrat issue. You see, you can’t make changes to the constitution without both parties engaged. But, if both parties actually work together, we can solve this debt crisis for our children and grandchildren.

"The last time this body dealt seriously with a balanced budget amendment was 1996. It passed this house with overwhelming bipartisan support, and it failed in the senate by a single vote. Can you imagine for a moment what our financial condition would be like right now if we had started balancing our budget during the good economic times of the 1990s, and kept that discipline to this, to this present day.

"If you want to know the true consequences of that failed balanced budget amendment vote of 1996, point to the financial collapse of 2008. Because I believe the financial collapse of 2008 would not have occurred if we had balanced the budget when we did. We would be in a, in a, even if we did we’d be in a position to better respond to it. We can either learn from that lesson, or… repeat it.

"The balanced budget amendment passed the senate in the 1980s and failed in the house. Then it passed in the 90s in the house, and failed in the senate. This is the moment we will either doom the next generation of Americans to more financial uncertainty, or we will solve the problem. A balanced budget amendment solves the S&P and Moodys rating question, because it settles the issue forever that we will live within our means.

"While this body should be able to make tough choices, we all know full well, this body will make the tough choices only when it has to. It’s always been that way; it always will be that way.

"A balanced budget amendment gives future congresses the gift of a moment each year when they must make tough choices. Let’s bring up the amendment. Let’s send it to the states for a vote. It is the ultimate allow the people to speak moment. I think Americans get this more that Washington gets this.

"Forty-nine of our 50 states have a structure in place, right now, for a balanced budget every single year. They make it work every year, we can too.

"The only fear from Washington is the inability to spend more money at will and to control the states with our preferences and money. At the end of this labor, if we birth a balanced budget amendment, all the pain of this process will have been worth it. Let’s show the nation we can work together. Let’s solve the debt problem. Let’s take up and pass a balanced budget amendment to the constitution, and then let’s get to work in solving our debt crisis."