From the Vault: In '93, consternation over balancing and borrowing also was in

02/21/2011 08:03 AM

While balancing the budget has been the dominant topic out of Washington these days, it also was a hot topic when the country was emerging from the recession in the early 1990s.

Lawmakers from both parties find it easy to agree that the government shouldn’t spend more than it brings in. But how to balance the budget has always been the tough part.

In 1993, then-Kentucky U.S. Sen. Wendell Ford, the state’s senior senator who was serving as Democratic whip at the time, reacted to one of the proposals that was floating around the halls of the Capitol that Ford said would have achieved the balancing by borrowing from the Social Security trust fund.

We dug that out of the archives for the first installment of the Pure Politics “From the Vault” segment that aired Friday night:

At that time, newly elected freshmen to the Congress were pushing for reforms, such as term limits and elimination of the appropriations committee to hold down spending levels.

Here is an excerpt from an April 5, 1993, article covering a meeting of the Joint Committee on the Organization of Congress, in which many freshmen called for reforms and Ford spoke to caution against some of the proposals.

The only non-freshman to testify Thursday was Ford, a Senator first elected in 1974, who spoke out in favor of a two-year budget cycle, saying it would allow for more long-term planning, eliminate redundancy, and provide time for program oversight.

Ford also said the committee system should be changed by limiting the number of panels on which a Senator could serve on to two “A” – or major – committees, such as Armed Services and Appropriations, and one “B” – or minor – committee, such as Budget or Small Business.

Senate rules already provide for such limits, although they are rarely observed.

Ford, however, warned the Joint Committee’s members that any decision they make on Congressional reform could be painful.

“My father told me a long time ago in politics, your hide gets torn off,” Ford said. “But when it grows back, it’s tougher.”

(Programming note: On Fridays, Pure Politics will feature clips from the past in our “From the Vault” segment at the end of the show.)

- Ryan Alessi


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