Tired of waiting for the federal government to fix its own problem, a national movement has formed with the goal of bringing states together to propose an amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
In Arizona, freshman District 11 representative Adam Kwasman (R-Oro Valley) is at the heart of this movement, placing himself behind the so-called “Compact for America” as the bill’s primary sponsor in the state House of Representatives. He found his first major success Tuesday, as the bill cleared the House Federalism and Fiscal Responsibility Committee by a 5-3 vote, meaning it will move on to the House Rules Committee before it would then have a chance at a vote by the full house.
What the compact is, Kwasman said, is a bill that would force the federal government to pass a balanced budget amendment by creating an amendment to the constitution by a 3/4 vote of the states.
“Think of the states as a board of directors to an out-of-control CEO in Washington,” Kwasman said. “It doesn’t take a seasoned politician to understand the federal government has failed.”
Kwasman was the first legislator across the U.S. to introduce the bill, which has now been brought forward in eight different states, including a pair – New Mexico and Connecticut – that traditionally lean more Democratic than Republican.
That doesn’t surprise Goldwater Institute staffer Nick Dranias, who helped write the language for the compact. Dranias is the Clarence J. and Katherine P. Duncan chair for Constitutional Government and is director of the Joseph and Dorothy Donnelly Moller Center for Constitutional Government at the conservative-leaning think tank.
Dranias said the compact was written with the intent of attracting those both to the left of center politically as well as those right of center to it with a number of elements that would please both sides.
“This is a principled compromise that the center-left can agree with,” said Dranias, pointing to elements such as allowing for some debt to be included in the balanced-budget amendment and creating an allowance for government stimulus spending out of debt in times of economic recession. “Even in blue states, we’re going to peel off support for this.”
With the national debt nearing $17 trillion (more than 100 percent of the country’s annual gross domestic product), both Kwasman and Dranias say it’s time to step in and force the federal government to rein in spending.
“If you think you have unlimited resources, you’ll never make rational decisions,” Dranias said of the current decisions and the federal level to keep upping the debt ceiling. “Previous federal balanced-budget amendments have all been toothless with tons of loopholes. They don’t want to limit their own power.”
The compact would send a hard cap for debt at $20 trillion that could only be adjusted by a majority vote of the states – something Dranias said would be necessary should a true national crisis (war, natural disaster) arise.
Input from think tanks across the country was sought by Dranias and Compact for America, Inc., CEO Chip DeMoss as the groundwork for the movement was laid over the past year. Dranias said he also analyzed the debt limitations in place at the state level in 49 of the states in the U.S.
“We have arrived at a product that can plausibly organize the states – and simple majorities of Congress – around a powerful BBA idea that strikes at the policy root of our unsustainable and overreaching federal government – the enabling ‘fairy dust’ of unlimited debt spending,” DeMoss wrote in an email.
Kwasman and Dranias both credited DeMoss and the reach his organization has in bringing national attention to solving this issue.
“One of the more interesting aspects of this issue is the group of people they’ve pulled together. These are people of real substance,” Dranias said. “We’re at the point now where this is going to pop and go huge or it’s going to fizzle.”
Kwasman said the compact is a “novel idea” that creates a way to solve a federal crisis at a state level.
“The compact is a smart, balanced approach,” he said. “It’s a modern take on the ideas of the Founding Fathers.”
For more information about the movement, visit compactforamerica.org.