The Compact for a Balanced Budget advances a specific Balanced Budget Amendment that you can read today, and which four states have already contractually committed to ratify. Read it here.
Section 3 of the Compact's Balanced Budget Amendment fleshes out the process by which the states approve increases in the constitutional debt limit set by section 2. The opposition typically criticizes the mechanics of the state approval process for increases in the constitutional debt limit with a misleading statement. They claim that "Whenever Congress wants, it may increase the national debt if 26 of the State Legislatures agree." This is a misleading statement because omits the very critical facts that the actual process specified in section 3 requires: (1) a measure to be passed by Congress (requiring simple majority vote support) unconditionally requesting the debt limit increase; and (2) unconditional approval of the debt limit increase by 26 state legislatures "within 60 days" and in accordance with "state law."
The opposition completely disregards the 60 day limit and the fact that states have the power to determine their own approval processes by state law. They apparently think it is no big deal to get 26 state legislatures (involving 2 to 6 committee hearings in each state, plus floor votes) to act on a proposed debt limit increase within 60 days.
Our initial point to what boils down to a "its not good enough" complaint, is "not good enough compared to what?"
The status quo permitted by the Constitution allows Congress to lift its own debt limit with a simple majority vote whenever it wants. Surely, requiring both that vote and approval by 26 state legislatures imposes a further and significant check on debt increases! How could it not?
The Compact's Amendment also avoids the conflict of interest faced directly by Congressmen who are directly responsible for authorizing excessive spending, yet absurdly expected to limit the borrowing needed to support the excessive spending they authorized. Obviously, that never happens.
The bottom line is that the opposition's typical critique of the state approval process for debt limit increases illustrates a lack of experience in the legislative field and a lack of respect for the political realities of federalism.
Think about it: It took Medicaid Expansion 6 months to secure the support of 26 state legislatures! Why? Because ordinary folks have a much bigger influence on state legislatures than in Washington, DC.
Bringing the fight for more debt to your state capitol and requiring approval in 60 days will be a powerful means of ensuring transparency in the public policy debate. Most likely, only true emergencies or a powerful broad-based consensus will prompt more borrowing. The burden of proof will firmly rest on those who want to borrow beyond the nearly $20 trillion in outstanding national debt. Congress will have to prioritize its spending, find efficiencies, and eliminate waste, fraud and abuse because it will unable to guarantee itself the limitless ability to borrow.
That's a huge improvement over DC's midnight hour debt limit increases, which never end and never fail!
Stay tuned for a discussion of section 4 of the Compact's BBA.