Balanced budget

Proposals to amend the Constitution to require that Congress balance the budget have come and gone for years.

The most recent serious push took place in 1995, after Republicans included such a plank in their “Contract With America,” which catapulted them into congressional control for the first time in more than a generation. But within a few years, the federal deficit was in surplus, leaving even many supporters of the amendment questioning its necessity. The proposal failed in the Senate by a single vote.

My, how times have changed.

Today, Barack Obama presents a 2011 budget with a projected deficit of $1.6 trillion. Spending has exploded. The national debt has skyrocketed. Even many liberal Democrats concede that Washington cannot continue down this fiscal path without jeopardizing the nation’s survival.

In response, GOP Sens. John McCain of Arizona, Jim DeMint and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma on Thursday proposed their own version of a balanced budget amendment, along with a one-year moratorium on earmarks.

The amendment would provide for exceptions, such as during time of war. It would also impose a supermajority requirement to pass tax hikes.

“Our nation is headed for a fiscal catastrophe, and we must take bold action to keep the politicians in Washington from running us off the cliff,” said Sen. DeMint.

Forty-nine states have balanced budget requirements. As Washington becomes more and more dysfunctional, a constitutional restraint might be the last hope of imposing a modicum of fiscal responsibility on our elected officials.

Nevada Sen. John Ensign has jumped on board the effort. So should the rest of the state’s delegation. In addition, given that to become law any amendment must be ratified by at least 37 states, Nevadans ought to demand that their representatives in Carson City also pledge support, putting on record those legislative candidates who instead embrace the spend-spend-spend beltway culture.

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