The pursuit of a balanced budget is not new.
Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1798, “I wish it were possible to obtain a single amendment to our Constitution. I would be willing to depend on that alone for the reduction of the administration of our government; I mean an additional article taking from the Federal Government the power of borrowing.”
But the first attempt at actually passing a balanced budget amendment didn’t occur until the 1936, according to the Congressional Research Service. From then on, Heritage Foundation Distinguished Fellow Ernest Istook explains in a new historical overview, the debate over a balanced budget amendment has been chock full of “frustrations, high-profile defections, reversals, and betrayals.”
And today’s debate over a new balanced budget amendment as part of a deal on the debt ceiling is no exception.
Istook’s advice to proponents of the current balanced budget amendment: “Prepare accordingly.” Proponents should look to the historical debate as a guide for defeating the opposition’s attempts to “confuse the issues by creating counterfeit versions and exceptions to provide political cover.”
Otherwise, Istook warns, “those who do not learn from the failures of history are doomed to repeat them.”