With the national debt at $14 trillion, federal spending continuing to soar, and Washington embroiled in a heated debate about the debt ceiling, Tea Party darling, Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee continues to make his case for a balanced budget amendment in the new book The Freedom Agenda: Why a Balanced Budget Amendment Is Necessary to Restore Constitutional Government.
In an interview Lee told TheDC that the book explains how the only way to solve the country’s deficit crisis is force Congress to stop spending. (IT’S OFFICIAL: Obama would veto Cut, Cap, Balance Act)
“Only by restricting its Constitutional authority to engage in deficit spending will you get Congress to stop doing it or at least stop doing it to the reckless degree it has been,” Lee said.
One of the brains behind the Cut, Cap, and Balance Act, Lee and his allies are pushing hard for Congress to adopt a balanced budget amendment, which would prevent Congress from spending more than it gets in revenue.
Lee says now is the best time to pass such a measure, because while America is close to the breaking point, the country is not there yet.
“If you care, regardless of what federal program you care most about, whether on the one hand it is national defense, or on the other hand entitlements, you ought to be concerned about proceeding without a balanced budget amendment,” Lee said.
“We will be forced in the coming years, the laws of mathematics and economics are such that at the rates we are spending, we will be forced to come to some balancing point,” he added. “It is just if we do it with the assist of a Constitutional amendment we will do it in a more orderly fashion. If we wait until there is a full blown crisis then we will be forced to make draconian cuts.”
The beauty of the balanced budget amendment, says Lee, is that it is agnostic as to what is actually cut.
In The Freedom Agenda, Lee explains that the expansion of government and perpetual deficit spending has been a direct product of the New Deal era – specifically the Supreme Court’s loose interpretation of the Commerce Clause.
“I point out the fact that during the New Deal,” Lee told TheDC. “America went through this dramatic transformation and that was made possible by the fact that the Supreme Court, starting in 1937, dramatically expanded its interpretation of the Commerce Clause to give Congress the power to regulate basically everything.”
While Lee’s principles are set in stone, he is willing to compromise on the details.
“The Cut Cap Balance Act that I proposed does have some numbers in it, but what I’ve said is within each category there is room for negotiation,” he said. “If you’ve got Democrats who want to join us and are serious, I’d be happy to negotiate the terms of it – in terms of the size of the cuts, in terms of the aggressiveness of the statutory spending cuts, even to some extent on some of the terms of the Balanced Budget Amendment.”
This week the House will vote on their version of the Cut, Cap, and Balance Act. While Lee voiced optimism that passage in the House could provide the momentum it needs for implementation, President Obama announced Monday that he would veto the measure if it ever reached his desk.