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Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session With Reporters Following the House of Representatives Vote on the Proposed Constitutional Amendment for a Balanced Federal Budget

October 01, 1982

The President. Today I share the deep, burning anger, I think, of millions of Americans. Despite stonewalling by the Democratic leadership of the House of Representatives, a majority of Members finally forced a vote on the balanced budget-tax limitation amendment. Tragically and for purely partisan reasons, these same House Democrats who didn't want the vote have again played politics with the will of the people.

This should not be a partisan issue. Indeed, almost a third of the Democratic Members, I must say, recognized the desires of the people and were willing to support them. But House Joint Resolution 350 was developed over several years by prominent constitutional scholars. It was passed overwhelmingly by the Senate. The leadership in the House pasted together a phony, last-minute political sham with no teeth in it which failed to pass. Their only concern was to defeat a real balanced budget-tax limitation amendment, and this they finally managed to do.

They have choked off the chances for a balanced budget amendment this year. We'll fight on. The American people are overwhelmingly with us, and our numbers are growing. We can take heart from the fact that 236 Republicans and Democrats, a clear majority of the House, joined together in the bipartisan support of a balanced budget. A constitutional amendment, however, requires a two-thirds majority, which would have been 290 votes, and therefore the measure failed.

It was year after year of government living beyond its means that plunged our nation into a deep, painful mess, one that culminated in 1980 with double-digit inflation, climbing unemployment, 21 1/2-percent interest rates, and the highest peacetime tax burden that we've ever known. Yet today, incredibly, we heard the House leadership still claiming that a balanced budget would wreck the economy.

To the overburdened taxpayers who are paying so dearly for the mistakes of the past, I pledge to you, we will redouble our efforts. We'll submit our amendment again, and with the support of the people we'll keep up the pressure until Congress makes an iron-clad commitment to bring spending in line with revenues. When the Congress busts the budget, it's the American people who are short-changed.

This vote today makes clear who supports a balanced budget and who does not. Voters across America should count heads and take names. In November we must elect Representatives who will support the amendment when we propose it again in the spring.

Q. Sir, what's unfair about the Democrats' assertion that if you want a balanced budget you should submit a balanced budget?

The President. No one believes, Sam [Sam Donaldson, ABC News]—I shouldn't take any questions, and I'm not going to, but I'm going to answer that one—because no one believes that the passing of such an amendment means that instantly we could achieve this. There is a time lapse in between which gives us plenty of time to begin to bring this budget back under control without devastating a number of worthwhile programs that people are dependent on, and it's going to take some work to achieve that. And it can be accomplished.

So, it isn't a ease that if this were passed that instantly after the vote we have to start. We have reduced the rate of increase in the budget from 17 percent when we started down to 4 1/2 percent in the next year's budget that has been proposed.

Q. Sir, that wasn't my question. I mean, you've answered a question I didn't ask.

The President. I'm, answering the question because the question you asked—the answer is so obvious that obviously after these years of out-of-control and buildup to the level they have, there's no one that pretended that you could—this would then have to go to the States for ratification. There would be a period of time before it was actually put in place. And in that period of time you have an opportunity to work out a budget which would not have to penalize people who are dependent now on the Government for help.

Q. Are you saying then, sir, that you think you could have a balanced budget by 1986, which was the goal of that amendment? Do you think that likely? Could you commit yourself today to that goal?

The President. We would have to, and I would be willing to go at it with that regard because—

Q. Do you think that's likely though? Isn't it really a case of politics by both sides?

The President. No. What's wrong with all the years that we've been advocating this? l?or 8 years I served as Governor of a State where we had it, and it was never violated except once by a Democratic administration and legislature in the State of California that used some bookkeeping tactics to repeal that.

Q. Are you sorry it came to a vote today?

The President. What?

Q. Are you sorry it came to a vote today?

The President. Sorry that—

Q. Are you sorry it came to a vote today?

The President. Yes, and I think that that was intentional. I think if we'd had more time for the people to know what was going on and make their wishes definitely known, I think the Congress might have acted differently.

Q. Can you tell us anything, sir, about the Habib mission, whether he has negotiated that withdrawal yet?

Q. Is this one for Tip? Did Tip beat you on this one, sir?

The President. What?

Q. Did Tip beat you on this one? You've beaten him often enough. Is this one for Tip?

The President. No, he beat the American people.

Note: The President spoke at 4:41 p.m. in the Briefing Room at the White House.

Ronald Reagan, Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session With Reporters Following the House of Representatives Vote on the Proposed Constitutional Amendment for a Balanced Federal Budget Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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