Email #92, Subject: “Balance the Budget”?

When I visited your office in DC, I noticed a faded pillow on your sofa. Your communications director Beth Breeding told me you receive summaries of constituent letters by email and read them at your desk, so the pillow is probably sitting behind you right now. You know the words printed on it, but I would appreciate if you would turn around and read them again now.

The pillow says, “Balance the Budget.”

You’ve been arguing for a balanced budget amendment for years. It’s probably the signature issue of your political career. Just last week you wrote on your website column:

“Congress must get our fiscal house in order. The federal debt is nearly $20 trillion. That’s over $61,000 per person! For years, the government’s mantra has been “borrow, spend, rinse, and repeat.” One good first step is to pass a Balanced Budget Amendment, which I have introduced in the House since 2007. The current path is unsustainable, and we must end runaway government spending.”

Which is why I’m so surprised by your adamant support of a President who dismisses it. President Trump told Fox News last month:

“A balanced budget is fine. But sometimes you have to fuel the well in order to really get the economy going. I want a balanced budget eventually. But I want to have a strong military.”

The words “fine” and “eventually” are not endorsements. They’re rejections. He intends to disregard budget constraints and deepen the national deficit, behavior you have consistently opposed. Presidents Clinton and Obama argued similarly that the economy needs government spending to fuel it. I think Clinton preferred the verbs “invest” and “grow.” But you voted against his economy-fueling bills in the 90s, and you also voted against Obama’s economy-fueling bills during his two terms too.

President Trump claims he has inherited an economic “mess”, but the U.S. GDP growth rate was at a two-year high when Obama left office and unemployment back to where it was before President Bush’s Great Recession. Since the case for an economy-fueling spending increase is weaker now, will you remain true to your principles and oppose President Trump’s $1 trillion transportation infrastructure bill? The President also wants to increase military spending by another $54 million, pushing the budget even further out of balance. Will you oppose that too, or do you only hold onto your pillow when there’s a Democrat in the White House?

Email #46, Subject: balanced budget or Obamacare repeal?

Thank you for your letter declaring your support for a balanced budget amendment. I am especially pleased to see that your position on this issue did not change because a Republican is entering the White House tomorrow. You supported this amendment under Obama, and you continue to support it under Trump. I commend that principled consistency.

I am, however, confused then why you undermined the Budget Office by barring them from calculating and reporting the cost of repealing the Affordable Care Act. If you wish to “put an end to deficit spending” as you state, this information is vital. The last estimate was $350 billion. Repealing the ACA will not only prevent Congress from balancing the budget, it will add greatly to the long-term deficit, two problems you claim are your top concerns.

I don’t understand how to interpret this extreme inconsistency. Do you believe the costs of the ACA repeal somehow don’t count? I understand you want both, but, as you say: “Families all across our nation understand what it means to make tough decisions each day about what they can and cannot afford and government officials should be required to exercise similar restraint when spending the hard-earned dollars of our nation’s citizens.”

Your contradictory positions suggest you are not living up to your own standard. Instead of ranking the repeal against its costs and making the tough decision of which matters more, you appear to be showing no restraint and pretending that you can have both. You can’t. Please acknowledge that financial fact and change one of your positions accordingly.

Bob Goodlatte replies about a balanced budget

 

Dear Mr. Gavaler:

Thank you for contacting me to share your desire for reduced government spending.  It is good to hear from you, and I share your concerns.

I believe that in addition to passing tight budgets and cutting spending now, we need to enact institutional reforms that will bind the federal government’s hands and cut up its credit cards once and for all no matter which party is in control.  Thus, for many Congresses now I have introduced an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to require Congress to balance its budget each year.  This will force Congress to make the decisions necessary to bring fiscal sanity back to Washington.  A balanced budget amendment would help put an end to deficit spending because Congress would no longer be allowed to spend more than it takes in.

My legislation, H.J. Res. 1, had the support of over 100 bipartisan Members of the House of Representatives last Congress.  Rest assured, I will work hard to enact this legislation and have it ratified by the states.

Like you, I believe our federal government must be lean, efficient and responsible with the dollars that our nation’s citizens worked so hard to earn.  We must work to both eliminate every cent of waste and squeeze every cent of value out of each dollar our citizens entrust to us.  Families all across our nation understand what it means to make tough decisions each day about what they can and cannot afford and government officials should be required to exercise similar restraint when spending the hard-earned dollars of our nation’s citizens.  We must not leave the next generation saddled with debt that is not their own.  Rest assured I will keep your views in mind as Congress considers these important issues.

I appreciate you taking the time to share your views with me.  I believe it is important to keep an open line of communication so I can best serve the interests of Virginia’s 6th District.  The House of Representatives reconvened for the 115th session on January 3, 2017.  I hope you will be in touch as the 115th Congress debates issues of importance to the United States.

Again, thank you for the benefit of your comments.  Please feel free to contact me whenever I may be of assistance.

With kind regards.

Sincerely,

Bob Goodlatte
Member of Congress

Email #43, Subject: preventing the budget office from doing its job?

I’m reading the rules package you voted for on the first day of the new Congress.

  1. 25: “The Director of the Congressional Budget Office shall … prepare an estimate of whether a bill … would cause … a net increase in direct spending in excess of $5,000,000,000 in any of the 4 consecutive 10 fiscal year periods….”
  2. 26: “This subsection shall not apply to any bill or joint resolution, or amendment thereto or conference report thereon— (A) repealing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act”

Does this mean that you don’t want the Budget Office to figure out how much repealing Obamacare is going to cost us? Isn’t that incredibly important information? The last estimate from 2015 was $353 billion. Why are stopping the CBO from doing its job? I thought you were a budget and deficit hawk. How could you vote yes to something that undermines one of your stated priorities? And after the public outcry over your attempt to alter the Ethics Office, your manipulation of the Budge Office only adds to the impression of incumbant corruption. If repealing Obamacare requires suppressing one of the underlying principles governing House procedures, maybe you shouldn’t be repealing it?

Chris Gavaler

Email #7, Subject: balanced budget amendment

You said in your acceptance statement that a balanced budget amendment is one of your biggest priorities. That’s fine by me. But isn’t that the opposite of what President Trump is planning? I heard he wants to cut taxes and also raise spending with infrastructure projects. Isn’t that the opposite of balancing the budget? You said a balanced budget, not tax cuts and not increased spending, was at the very top of your list. So how are you going to do that? If GOP leaders hand you an unbalanced budget, are you going to vote against it? You said you were going to “fight” for a balanced budget. Please explain exactly what that means.

Chris Gavaler