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.
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:
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.