Congress must get serious about reducing nation's debt

Last week the Senate rejected two balanced-budget amendments on party-line votes. Balancing the budget must be put ahead of partisan politics.

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Congress has got to get federal spending under control.

The national debt is $15 trillion and the federal government is spending about $1 trillion a year more than it takes in.

Every member of Congress knows this can't continue. Yet few have the political courage to take the action necessary to spend less and start paying down the enormous debt.

This summer the Democrat-controlled Senate and the Republican-controlled House played a dangerous game of political brinkmanship when federal spending reached the debt ceiling approved by Congress. A financial meltdown loomed until an agreement was made to start reducing spending.

A so-called Super Committee was appointed to find a way to reduce deficit spending by at least $1.5 trillion over the next 10 years by Thanksgiving. The committee, with an even number of Republicans and Democrats, failed miserably.

Given all the trillions and trillions of dollars that will be spent in the next decade, one would think you could pick 12 people off the streets who could find a way to accomplish the $1.5 trillion assignment.

Yet, the six Republicans and six Democrats on the committee refused to budge from their positions and compromise.

The partisan games continued last week as two proposed constitutional amendments - one proposed by Republicans and the other Democrats - mandating a balanced budget failed to gain the required two-thirds majority in the Senate.

All but one Republican voted against the Democratic measure, and every Democrat opposed the Republican version.

With these votes Congress fulfilled a commitment to take up balanced budget amendments that were part of the agreement last summer to raise the debt ceiling.

A decade ago we opposed the idea of using the Constitution as a hammer to balance the budget. Our thinking was the Constitution should not become a government accounting manual.

But as the members of Congress - on both sides of the aisle - have allowed spending to get out of control with no regard for the nation's future, we now find the idea of a balanced budget amendment not only palatable but necessary. Constitutional restraint is needed. Both sides are so attached to their ideology they don't seem to care if they run the country off the rails.

Since it is clear an agreement on a constitutional amendment is not close to happening, perhaps lawmakers could pass a law calling for a balanced budget at a specified date in the future.

Sure, that law would likely be changed as the date for a balanced budget grows near but perhaps the outrage of the American people would result in political pressure that should make it much more difficult for Congress to change a balanced budget law.

It is imperative the nation gets serious about getting its growing debt under control.

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