Balanced Budget Amendment Fails To Pass House

Not surprisingly, today’s vote in the House on a Balanced Budget Amendment failed to achieve the 2/3 majority required:

The GOP-controlled House failed on Friday to muster the required two-thirds majority vote to pass a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution, a legislative exercise agreed upon by both parties this summer in the deal that raised the nation’s debt ceiling and created the deficit super committee.

Bipartisan support for the amendment was verified in the 261 to 165 vote.

But it faced a steep, uphill climb to get to the two-thirds votes needed to pass. Republicans depicted the amendment as a way to force Congress to live within its means by ensuring total federal spending each year does not exceed total revenues. (Its limitations could be waived in the event of war.) Democratic leaders actively opposed it, arguing it could lead to sharp cuts in domestic spending based on House Republican budget priorities.

In this highly charged partisan atmosphere, reaching the 284 votes needed for passage in a chamber was a difficult road. The House has 242 Republicans and 192 Democrats. There is one vacancy.


Sponsored by Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., the House measure contained essentially the same language as one passed in 1995, with 72 Democrats on board, when Republicans also controlled the House, but has fallen short in the Senate. A more conservative version pushed by some in the House GOP this summer would have required a super-majority in order to raise taxes and would have capped spending eventually at 18 percent, but was set aside as having less of a chance of attracting the Democratic votes needed for passage.

“Fifty years with (just) 16 balanced budgets” has led to $15 trillion deficit, Goodlatte said on the House floor.

Even if all House Republicans had voted for the measure, it would have needed 48 Democratic votes.

But even the House GOP Caucus wasn’t fully united here. Four Republicans, including Paul Ryan, voted against the amendment presumably because it was too watered down. However, this vote suggests that the more stringent BBA that I wrote about earlier this year would have fared even worse in the House. But, the vote has been made, and the GOP will undoubtedly make use of it in the 2012 elections. Personally, I doubt it will have much of an impact.

FILED UNDER: Congress, Deficit and Debt, US Politics, , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Hey Norm says:

    One major, major difference…the 1995 bill only required a simple majority to increase revenues. The bill that didn’t pass today requires a super-majority to increase revenues, making it functionally impossible to ever raise taxes, and creating a license for the GOP to abolish social programs. That makes it a different animal completely.
    Hoyer put it best when explaining why he voted yes in ’95 and no today:

    “…I did not contemplate the irresponsibility I have seen fiscally over the last nine years — or eight years of the Bush administration and Republican leadership of the House and Senate,” Hoyer said. “And this last few months where Republicans took America to the brink of default. They placed the confidence of the world in America’s fiscal judgment into question…. Immediately upon again achieving majority in Washington in 2001, the Republicans set about undermining that very fiscal responsibility and in fact added over $3 trillion to the deficit over the next eight years. So that I have over the last 16 years had a substantial erosion in my confidence of the willingness of the other party to [put us on a] responsible path to get to balance, particularly paying for what they bought…”

  2. As noted in the article, the Amendment voted on today was virtually identical to the 1995 version and did not contain the supermajority requirements that had been in H.J. Res 2 as originally proposed.

  3. Hey Norm says: