CEDAR RAPIDS — Flanked by two co-sponsors, Sen. Chuck Grassley called for a balanced-budget amendment to bring “more fiscal responsibility to Congress” and remove the threat of federal government shutdowns over future budget disagreements.
Passage of a constitutional amendment to limit federal spending to no more than the revenue collected would require broad bipartisan support, Grassley said at a Friday news conference after he, Sen. Joni Ernst and Georgia Sen. David Perdue met with about 50 employees of Alliant Energy in downtown Cedar Rapids. Perdue is a former Alliant board member.
Grassley, a fiscal conservative, is a longtime supporters of the balanced budget amendment, which was defeated in the Senate by one vote in 1995. Winning support today may be more difficult “because there’s not as much bipartisanship going for it ow as we did back then.”
It’s no less necessary today than it was then, said Perdue. The federal government is carrying $20 trillion in debt and more than $10 trillion in future unfunded liabilities. That works out to $1 million per American family, he said.
“When people realize what a deep crisis we are in, that’s when Americans stand up and force their elected officials to compromise,” he said.
The balanced budget amendment has become one of the issues in Grassley’s re-election contest with Democrat Patty Judge. Her campaign spokesman said Friday Grassley has no credibility on the issue.
He “has made clear the budget is not a priority of his by skipping 73 percent of his Budget Committee hearings this term alone,” Sam Roecker said. “Since he went to Washington, the national debt has skyrocketed by over $18 trillion.”
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Judge’s objection is that “those kind of amendments is they really do not take into account what might happen: war, catastrophic events,” she told Radio Iowa. “I think that we need to leave that out of our constitution.”
However, Grassley said his proposal would make an exception for national defense.
Judge called his approach unwise.
“We do require that in Iowa, but I do not believe it is the wise thing to do,” the one-term lieutenant governor told the Sioux City Journal. Iowa’s Constitution requires the state budget to be balanced every year.
“I did not think it was the wise thing to do at the state level,” Judge said, “and I really do not believe it is the wise thing to do in the country.”
Ernst saw what consequences of Judge’s approach when she was elected to the Iowa Senate in 2010 — the same election that Judge and Gov. Chet Culver lost their re-election bid.
“I witnessed firsthand the results,” she said about the Culver-Judge administration’s $800 million-plus state budget deficit.
“That was her leadership that led us into that dark place,” Ernst said. “If that’s what we would see at the federal level, heaven forbid, because every Iowan today owes $60,000 toward our federal debt.”
The state’s financial picture was much rosier than Ernst would lead voters to believe, Roecker said.
“The fact is, Iowa had a $750 million surplus in 2010, after dealing with the worst recession since World War II and one of the worst natural disasters in Iowa’s history,” he said.
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Judge and Grassley likely will discuss the issue in a pair of debates. They will meet Oct. 19 in Sioux City for a debate to be broadcast on KTIV in Sioux City, KWWL in Waterloo/Cedar Rapids, KTTC in Rochester, Minn., and WGEM in Quincy, Ill., as well as being streamed live on the stations’ websites.
They will debate again at 4 p.m. Nov. 4 for a WHO Radio debate, which will be televised by WHO-TV.