WASHINGTON –The top House Democrat on Wednesday slammed a GOP-proposed constitutional balanced budget amendment, calling it a “cynical” attack on social safety net programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid.
“This so-called balanced budget amendment is not balanced and it should not be an amendment to the Constitution,” Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) declared at a news conference at the Capitol.
Ahead of Thursday’s anticipated vote, House Democrats condemned the proposed amendment as “hypocritical,” calling attention to the negative effects cuts on social services would have on senior citizen Americans and their families, in addition to increasing the national deficit by more than $2 trillion.
Pelosi was joined by Democratic Reps. Jan Schakowsky (Ill.), Doris Matsui (Calif.), and John Yarmuth (Ky.).
“First, the Republicans passed a tax scam that blows a $2 trillion hole in the budget and gives 83 percent of the tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans, corporate CEOs and outsourcing corporations,” said Schakowsky, who is the co-chair of the Seniors Task Force. “Secondly, they offer a budget that would fill the gap by cutting more than $2 trillion in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and even programs like Meals on Wheels.”
Pelosi further criticized House Republicans for their recent tax cuts for wealthy Americans, which the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office found this week would add national deficit, referring to the amendment as one that “attacks the fundamental promise of dignity and security for America’s seniors and working families” by cutting the “pillars of economic and health security.”
Introduced by Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, Republican of Virginia, the proposed budget billwould change the Constitution to prohibit Congress from spending more than it brings in in federal revenue, unless three-fifths of both chambers vote to do so.
“A constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget would finally bring discipline to federal spending and would benefit generations to come,” said Goodlatte in a press release last week.
Passing the bill would require bipartisan support, since constitutional amendments require a two-thirds majority in both the House and Senate. Three-fourths of the states would also have to approve it, making it a high bar to amend the Constitution.
“I challenge my colleagues in the House and Senate to do what is morally right and responsible by passing this amendment and sending it on to the states for ratification,” continued Goodlatte in the statement.
Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC), chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee, praised the bill, saying April 5 he’s “grateful” for the amendment being scheduled for a vote on the House floor. He added, “funding our present on the backs of our children and grandchildren is not compassionate or just.”
But Pelosi, the House Democratic Leader, drew a line in the sand, telling reporters, “Democrats are fighting back and we’re going to defend Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.”
The press conference came just hours after Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan (Wis.) announced he would not be seeking re-election at the end of this term.
“As we gather here to talk about preserving Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, it is ironic that on this same day, the Speaker has decided that he will not seek re-election,” said Pelosi. “I salute him for being an articulate spokesperson for his point of view and think he has served the people of his district with great distinction and I’m sure they’re very proud of him and I wish him and his family much success and happiness in the next chapters of their lives.”