Mr. DeFAZIO. I thank the gentleman, and I particularly want to thank Mr. Goodlatte for his extraordinary leadership on this issue. We both supported a virtually identical amendment in 1995.
Now, when I first came to Congress, I did not support a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. I said things similar to my good friend and colleague Mr. Neal from Massachusetts: It's a gimmick. We don't need it. People will come together. We can make these decisions.
It didn't take me long in observing the Congress to realize that there's an infinite capacity in this Congress to kick the can down the road. And the problem is that can's getting pretty darn heavy to kick down the road, and it's going to land on the next generation with full force--$15 trillion of debt. For the first time since World War II, this year our deficit exceeds the gross domestic product.
Now, we're going to have to force people to make tough decisions. That's a conclusion I came to when I changed and I supported the amendment back in the mid-nineties.
Now, just think about it. It passed the House, failed by one vote in the Senate. And had that become the law of the land, today we would be paying down the last of the debt. We might still be in this hole economically that we're in, but we would actually then perhaps have the capacity and the will to go out and borrow a couple of hundred billion dollars to rebuild the Nation's crumbling infrastructure. We could afford it. But in this environment with this amount of debt, that's a very tough sell around here.
This is an honest balanced budget amendment. It does not prejudice the debate between taxes--and there are many on that side who object to any new taxes or revenue--and spending cuts--and there are many on my side who object to many spending cuts. It does not discriminate. It's fair. It's evenhanded.
There were many on the Republican side who preferred one that would have tied the hands of Congress, said, No, you need a 66 percent vote to have taxes; no, you have to be limited to 18 percent of GDP. But, no, they brought forward something that is fair, and it would be something that would force Members of Congress and future Members of Congress to make the tough decisions that we have to make.
A lot of talk about Social Security. I'm an expert on Social Security. Social Security is the largest creditor of the United States of America, $2.66 trillion. We have to have the capability to redeem that debt to pay future Social Security benefits in the not-distant future when we have to draw on what's called a trust fund. It's not a trust fund. It's government bonds. It's debt. And if we keep adding to the pile of debt, will we have the capability to repay those Social Security bonds? And there's a long-term problem with Social Security. I have a bill to fix that. Lift the cap on wages. I didn't notice that--many on my side have been down here carrying on about the attack on Social Security in this bill; they're not on my bill. Because that's a tough thing to say, we're going to make people over 250 pay the same amount of tax as people who earn less than 250.
That's a solution long term. But short term we've got to worry about being able to redeem those bonds and pay promised benefits of Social Security.
And then a lot of talk about the debt limit. Well, when we're in balance, you're going to have to have a 60 percent vote to deficit spend, and you would need a 60 percent vote for an increase on the debt limit. I would say that they could be done at exactly the same time. It requires the same number of votes. Is someone going to vote today to say we're in balance, to vote in deficit to deal with the economic situation today, perhaps to fund infrastructure investments, and then vote later on today against raising the debt limit by that same amount? That would just vitiate their earlier vote. So I don't think that that's a real threat.
If you vote ``no,'' you're assuming that we have an infinite capacity to borrow money to pass on to future generations and still meet our obligations to the American people. I don't believe that. We need limits. We need to be forced to make tough decisions, and this would force future Congresses to make those tough decisions.