Reps. Jeb Hensarling and Mike Pence, two conservative Republicans pushing a proposal for a spending limit amendment to the Constitution say they aren’t “naïve” in recognizing its poor chances of ratification.
But the amendment, which they announced today in a piece in the Wall Street Journal, that would limit spending to one-fifth of the economy — the historical spending average since World War II — could pick up steam among an electorate more concerned than ever about spending, they told a group of reporters on a conference call this morning. “They probably said that about the amendment that brought us women’s suffrage,” Hensarling, of Texas, said of those who are pessimistic of their efforts.
“Some may ask, ‘Isn’t this a serious remedy?’ It’s meant to be a serious remedy,” Hensarling said.
He also said that even if the amendment doesn’t “become enshrined in the Constitution,” it could positively affect the debate. Pence, of Indiana, argued that though the balanced budget amendment in the 1980s never passed, it very well could have contributed to the balanced budget in the 1990s.
Pence said he’s “never seen the American people more focused on runaway federal spending as they are right now,” and at a time where voters in Massachusetts elected a fiscal conservative to the Senate, he wouldn’t be surprised to see an idea like this “catching fire across the country.”
The one-fifth spending limit could only be waived by a declaration of war or by a two-thirds congressional vote. The legislators asked in the piece, “Can we tax our way out of this problem? No.”
“In order to pay for what we are on track to spend under current law, taxes would have to double. This would crush our economy and condemn future generations to a far lower standard of living. That is not an option,” they said.