Section 1. The budget of the United States of America shall be balanced on an annual basis, to wit expenditures and revenues shall be equal; except during periods of Congressionally Declared Wars; or by a vote of four fifths of both Houses of Congress.
Section 2. The President of the United States shall have the power to veto specific lines of legislation without vetoing the entire legislation. Both Houses of Congress may override a Presidential veto of specific line items by a two thirds votes of the members.
I have been reading the report of the President’s Budget Commission. It is clear they probably have gotten it just about right when both the right and the left attack their recommendations. The right sees any tax as a nefarious plot to subvert capitalism and expand the size and scope of the federal government. The left has yet to see an entitlement that they are willing to see reduced.
A couple of points; first, too many of us have forgotten that our citizenship comes with obligations. Obligations, as the report says, to leave our nation in better shape for future generations. We too often forget we are a nation, but rather want everyone else ox gored, but we individually are unwilling to do our part. We have forgotten we are American and too often see ourselves first and foremost as insular special interest, rather than citizens of a great nation.
Second, the proposals of the Debt Reduction Commission have a snow ball’s chance in hell of being enacted. Both Democrats and Republicans will play politics with the recommendations. Each will accuse the other side of imagined high crimes and misdemeanors and will use that as an excuse to avoid the unpleasant task of telling the American people the truth and taking steps to institute the recommendations.
In such case as the snow ball does not melt in hell, there is one further step the Congress of the United States must take and that is to approve a balanced budget Amendment and send it to the respective states for ratification.
I have drafted a proposed amendment, which is at the beginning of this piece. Rather than use a lot of words to describe the intent, I choose to emulate the drafters of our Constitution and to use as few words as possible to describe the requirements.
While section one is intended to act a break on Congress, requiring them to pass a balanced budget, it is also intended to serve as a break on the predilections of the Executive to use military force in wars without seeking a Congressional declaration.
Since the end of World War II, the United States Armed Forces have been committed to Korea, Dominican Republic, Vietnam, Lebanon, Panama, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq, and Afghanistan without any Congressional declaration of war. Since Bosnia, these wars have been fought through supplemental appropriations with the conflicts being removed from the base budget of the Department of Defense. I have given Congress the power to fund military operations and not pass a balanced budget by simply exercising their Constitutional prerogative of declaring war.
I have also given Congress a way out of passing a balanced budget when the nation is not at war. Congress may do so if both the House of Representatives and the Senate vote with four fifths of both houses affirming an unbalanced budget. Let me put that in perspective in today’s Senate that would require 80 out of 100 Senators to vote in affirmative; in today’s House it would require 348 members of the House to vote in the affirmative.
The second section empowers the President by granting him a line item veto, meaning he may veto specific lines of legislation which he or she finds objectionable. But it also empowers Congress as it permits Congress to overturn the Presidential veto by a two thirds majority.
Only by ensuring there are sufficient checks and balances on both the Executive and Legislative Branches, the Federal Government efforts to balance the budget and reduce our debt will be futile. After all both the Legislative and Executive branch are composed of politicians, who, like many American, put their desire to be reelected ahead of the needs of the nation.