(CNSNews.com) - Former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell says both houses of Congress need to pass a Balanced Budget Amendment to the U.S. Constitution by Oct. 1 of this year, which is the first day of the new fiscal year. Blackwell is the chairman of the group “Pass the Balanced Budget Amendment,” which on Friday endorsed a proposed balanced Budget Amendment put forth by Sens. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah).
“I believe that we have to have a resolution passed by the Congress by Oct. 1 of this year,” Blackwell told CNSNews.com. “I think there is sufficient political demand and there is sufficient economic downside to not getting it done that quickly and by that target date.”
If passed by both houses of Congress on a two-thirds margin, the proposed amendment would have to be approved by 38 state legislatures in order to become part of the U.S. Constitution.
A balanced budget amendment was last proposed in 1995 when it passed the House of Representatives but fell short of passage in the Senate by one vote. Blackwell said he believes that despite past failures, the increased focus being put on the debt by House Republicans and Tea Party groups has created a political environment that will be much more favorable to such a proposal.
“I think there is a broader public understanding of the clear and present danger of our debt crisis,” said Blackwell. “This is recognized as a national security crisis given the fact that China and other foreign interests are carrying our debt. It is a moral crisis given that we are now witnessing and participating in the grandest scheme of intergenerational theft that the country has ever witnessed in its history and it is an economic crisis with the increasing government spending and the size and reach and scope of government.”
Some critics view the move to amend the U.S. Constitution as purely symbolic and claim that forcing Washington to keep its books balanced could lead to deep cuts in services for the poor and unemployed. Blackwell, however, pointed out that the recent spending programs which have helped lead to astronomical levels of debt have done little to boost employment and may have even made the situation worse.
“I think that given the choice between extended handouts or job opportunities the American people overwhelmingly come down on the side of economic growth and job creation,” Blackwell said. “Instead of using government spending for productive purposes, Congress has been using its spending habit on bailouts and for banks and unprofitable businesses, for housing subsidies and actually incentivizing unemployment.”
Both the recent Balanced Budget Amendment proposal by Sens. Lee and Kyl as well as similar proposal put forth by Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) would require a two-thirds vote in both the House and the Senate in order to raise taxes. The Lee/Kyl amendment would cap spending at 18 percent of the previous years GDP while the Hatch/Cornyn proposal would limit spending to 20 percent of the previous years GDP.
Blackwell said the “Pass the Balanced Budget Amendment” group would support either proposal -- and supports both proposals.
“We have a situation where government spending is at about 41 percent of our GDP, said Blackwell. “We have crossed the threshold of a system dominated by free-market enterprise and we are now rapidly becoming a socialist state.”
Kyl extolled the virtues of the proposed amendment saying that it was the only solution to the nation’s burgeoning debt.
“Again and again, even well-intentioned efforts to restrain deficit spending through the normal budget process have failed,” Kyl said in a news release Thursday. “A balanced budget amendment is the only certain way to ensure that the government consistently lives within its means.”
An alternative path to adopting a constitutional amendment -- a national constitutional convention called by Congress at the request of two-thirds of the state legislatures -- is enumerated in the Constitution, but has never been tried.