Washington, DC -- Congressman Eliot Engel (D-NY-17) criticized the House Republican Majority for wasting more time on a Balanced Budget Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, instead of focusing on creating jobs and other more pressing issues.   The measure failed to generate the two-thirds majority needed for passage.  To view his remarks from the House floor -

“The Balanced Budget Amendment sounds like good rhetoric, but we live in the real world and this is just political fantasy.  Congress would be severely limited to respond to changing fiscal conditions, and it would dramatically hinder federal responses to high unemployment, wars, other fiscal crises or even helping communities with natural disaster relief.  It would also require a super-majority to fix inequities in our tax code, thus protecting the lucrative tax breaks currently enjoyed by hedgefund operators and Big Oil, who pay far less taxes than middle class families.

“It is a short-sighted vote which sends the country through a time machine back to 1995, not-so-coincidentally the last time a radical Republican majority was in power.  This amendment effectively ties the hands of the Congress and renders it helpless to protect our citizens when hurricanes, such as Irene, destroy homes.  It leaves Congress on the sidelines when Americans are out of work, such as they are today.  It stifles many options to respond to international crises which could threaten our national security.  It would also lead to trillions of dollars of Draconian cuts to our social safety net – Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security – and significant tax hikes on the middle class.

“President Reagan’s economic advisor Bruce Bartlett chided the bill as being ‘drafted by a couple of interns on the back of a napkin.’  Nonpartisan economists from Macroeconomics Advisers LLC added that it would double the current unemployment rate and catapult the nation into another recession.  The supermajority required to raise the debt limit would risk default – again.  It also effectively removes control of the nation’s purse strings from Congress and hands it to the courts – thus violating the Constitution.

“This is not the proper course for our country and I urge my Republican colleagues to stop listening to the Tea Party radicals whispering in their ear and instead work with Democrats to find responsible solutions to the problems facing our country.”