Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley is co-sponsoring a bill that calls for a Constitutional amendment requiring a balanced federal budget. Grassley, a Republican, expects votes Wednesday on two different pieces of similar legislation, the first such votes that will be taken in the U.S. Senate since 1997.

“The legislation I’ve co-sponsored for a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution first would require the president to submit a balanced budget to Congress annually,” Grassley says. “Secondly, it would prohibit Congress from spending more than it takes in, or spending more than 18% of gross national product.”

He says Congress is now spending 24% of the GNP. The legislation has a third element, requiring super-majority votes in Congress to raise taxes. Grassley says the time is now for this important legislation, though he doubts it will get the required number of votes to pass.

“With the federal debt at $15-trillion and deficits as far as the eye can see into the future, it’s time for Congress to act for a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution,” Grassley says. “Let the states have a chance to ratify it.” Grassley also co-sponsored legislation that was passed in 1979 making it law that Congress pass a balanced budget, but unfortunately, he says, it had no impact.

“What Congress did each year after that for about 15 years, before they finally repealed Byrd-Grassley, they just didn’t have it apply for that fiscal year,” he says. “So, anybody that says Congress ought to be able to balance a budget by passing a law instead of a Constitutional amendment, just don’t know the experience I’ve had with it.”

He notes, the national debt back in 1979 was about a third what it is today.