Colorado Sen. Mark Udall became the first Democrat to co-sponsor a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution, his office announced Tuesday.
“American families have to balance their own checkbooks – and, especially in these hard times, they’re wondering why their federal government doesn’t have to do the same,” Udall said. “In fact, the United States has balanced its budget only five times in the last 50 years. Meanwhile, we’ve racked up a record debt that threatens our future economic leadership. We need to take action now to turn our fiscal situation around.”
Led by Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, Republicans introduced the bill in January, saying it was needed for Congress to get its fiscal house in order. The amendment would force Congress to balance the nation’s budget annually and would extend the same requirement to the president’s annual budget proposal. The government would be exempt in times of war.
A similar proposal in 1997 failed to pass the Senate by just one vote.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates the federal deficit will reach $1.5 trillion this year, and grow to 77 percent of GDP over the next ten years if Congress continues its current spending levels.
To be ratified, constitutional amendments require a two-thirds majority in both chambers of Congress and approval from three-fourths of the state legislatures.