Ratcliffe proposing harsh penalties for colleagues for unbalanced budget

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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - There are calls for more discipline on Capitol Hill. Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-TX) wants harsher penalties if he and his colleagues fail to balance the federal checkbook. He is introducing a constitutional amendment that could revoke their pay. Ratcliffe says he wants to hold politicians’ feet to the fire.

Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-TX) says if his constituents have to balance their checkbooks, lawmakers should have to as well.

“I want to focus the discussion on getting our nation’s financial house in order,” said Ratcliffe.

Ratcliffe says if everyday Americans are forced to balance their own checkbooks, leaders in Washington should be held to the same standard. His amendment says if the federal government doesn’t adopt a balanced budget, members of Congress and the president, won’t get paid.

“If we grow the economy, the opportunity to actually pass a balanced budget should be something that we’re all talking about and that we’re all trying to accomplish,” said Ratcliffe.

He says introducing this amendment is not symbolic, he is serious. And he says he thinks he can get support from his fellow lawmakers.

“Most members of Congress really believe in fiscal responsibility and would like the government to be operating more efficiently and to be operating within our means like folks are back home,” said Ratcliffe.

Professor Gary Nordlinger says the reality that this amendment passes is not high. Adding an amendment to the Constitution requires Congressional approval and the green-light from 75 percent of state legislatures.

“It’s one of those interesting concepts that gets a lot of headshaking, ‘Oh isn’t this a great idea?’ It doesn’t go anywhere,” said Nordlinger.

He says if lawmakers like the idea, nothing is stopping them from forfeiting their pay on their own accord. He says talk of amendments like this are generally political theater.

“How are you going to get the majorities that are needed to get this through? You know the Democrats don’t like the idea,” said Nordlinger.

Ratcliffe doesn’t have any co-sponsors. His proposal is currently sitting in committee.