April 10, 2018
United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
On behalf of the millions of members and supporters of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, I am writing to urge you to vote against H. J. Res. 2, proposing a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution of the United States.
A balanced budget amendment would prevent Social Security and Medicare Part A from drawing down trust fund reserves to pay retirement, disability and survivor benefits and hospitalization costs since all federal expenditures, including these earned benefits, would have to be covered by revenue collected in the same year. H. J. Res. 2 would also require draconian spending cuts of such a magnitude as to force policymakers to severely slash Medicare Parts B, C and D, Medicaid, and many other programs while opening the door to massive new tax cuts. At the same time, it would make it very difficult to achieve balance through revenue raisers such as tax increases or to raise the debt ceiling.
While the balanced budget amendment does not dictate any particular approach to deficit reduction, by altering established Congressional voting procedures it increases the likelihood that the fiscal policies adopted in coming decades will favor the well-off at the expense of middle- and low-income Americans. The amendment would require a two-thirds vote of the full membership of the House and Senate to raise taxes. Spending cuts, by contrast, would continue to require only a majority of those present and voting and could be passed on a voice vote.
Adding to these problems, the amendment would heighten the risk of a federal government default by requiring a three-fifths vote of both the House and the Senate to raise the debt limit, rather than the current simple majority. Consider the scenario where budgets thought to be balanced at the start of a fiscal year fall out of balance during the year as a result of factors such as slower-than-expected economic growth or a natural disaster. If sizable deficits emerged with only part of the year remaining, Congress and the President may be unable to agree on a package of budget cuts resulting in Congress being unable to raise the debt limit and allow a deficit. The President may be bound, at the point at which the “government runs out of money,” to stop issuing checks.
The National Committee supports responsible government budgeting. However, we oppose a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution because it would significantly harm the economy, result in a government default and force severe cuts in Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other vital federal programs. We urge all members of Congress to vote no on this dangerous way to address the federal government’s long-term fiscal challenges.
President and CEO