Durbin Responds to Judiciary Committee Republicans' Request for Hearings on Balanced Budget Amendment

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) sent a letter to Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) and the other Republican members of the Judiciary Committee today, in response to their request for hearings on a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.


Durbin, Chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights, raised concerns about the manner in which hearings were requested, but agreed to the request.


“I was surprised to receive your letter, which was released to the press before I saw it, because none of the Senators who signed the letter have ever discussed this issue with me, although we see each other several times a week on the Senate floor and in the Judiciary Committee,” Durbin wrote.


“As you know, our Subcommittee has jurisdiction over proposed Constitutional amendments, and I will accommodate your request for hearings on S. J. Res. 10. This proposed amendment raises a number of serious constitutional and fiscal policy questions that deserve careful review.”


“Since the enactment of the Bill of Rights, the Constitution has been amended only seventeen times. The Founding Fathers set the bar high for revising our founding document, and appropriately so. In our Subcommittee we will schedule hearings to examine the constitutional and fiscal implications of S. J. Res. 10 and assess whether this proposal meets the high bar for enshrinement in the Constitution. I look forward to the debate.”


Durbin, a member of the President’s Fiscal Commission who has spent much of the last year and half working on bipartisan debt negotiations, also noted that addressing the debt cannot await the outcome of a debate on a balanced budget amendment, a concern shared by former Senate Budget Committee Chairman Judd Gregg (R-NH):


“[A]ddressing the debt should not and cannot be made contingent on the outcome of a debate over amending the Constitution. As former Senator Judd Gregg recently wrote in the attached op-ed entitled ‘Don’t use amendment to dodge debt ceiling action,’ amending the Constitution ‘is a hurdle that is rarely jumped….It takes years, if not decades, to accomplish such a feat.’”


A copy of Senator Cornyn’s letter to Durbin is attached along with a copy of Durbin’s response, including former Senator Gregg’s op-ed. Identical letters were sent to all eight Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.


The Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights has jurisdiction over all constitutional issues and all legislation and policy related to civil rights, civil liberties and human rights.