Political Animal


November 18, 2011 2:10 PM House easily rejects Balanced Budget Amendment

By Steve Benen

One of the top priorities of the House Republican leadership for this Congress was passage of a Balanced Budget Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. As of this afternoon, we can add another item to the list of GOP failures.

The House has rejected a proposed constitutional amendment that would have forced Congress to balance its budget every year as a way to reverse years of deficit spending.

A majority of House members supported the balanced budget measure, but supporters fell short of achieving the two-thirds majority needed to amend the Constitution.

Earlier this year, it was largely assumed the House would approve of the amendment and that the real fight would be in the Senate. As it turned out, however, proposal had no chance — it needed 290 votes in the lower chamber, and came up with 261.

To be sure, the fact that 261 House members said it was a good idea to add this ridiculous amendment to the Constitution isn’t exactly good news, but the fact that the measure died this afternoon is a welcome display of sanity from a chamber where it’s rarely found.

I’d note for context, by the way, that supporters are moving in the wrong direction. The last time the House voted on the BBA, in 1995, it passed with 300 votes. Today, despite a larger Republican majority, a larger deficit, and a far more right-wing chamber overall, proponents didn’t even come close to the previous total.

By my count, only four House Republicans voted against it. The majority needed roughly 50 Democrats to break ranks, but ended up with about half the necessary total. [Update: here’s the roll call.]

The nation dodged a bullet today. This amendment would have devastated the economy and made responses to future crises effectively impossible. Bruce Bartlett, a veteran of the Reagan and Bush administrations, explained this week that this is a “dreadful” idea and the Republican proposal “is, frankly, nuts.”

And now, thankfully, it’s dead for another Congress.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


Post a comment
  • c u n d gulag on November 18, 2011 2:20 PM:

    Ok, you tried another stunt.

    And now that it failed, I still have the same question:

  • TreeTop on November 18, 2011 2:26 PM:

    Who are the 25 Democrats stupid enough to support this crap?

  • Holmes on November 18, 2011 2:29 PM:

    I'm seeing reports that Paul Ryan(R-hedge fund managers) voted against it.

    If true, he either he had a brief moment of clarity(doubtful) or is looking ahead to a future campaign(VP).

  • TreeTop on November 18, 2011 2:34 PM:

    The 25 Democrat "aye" votes:

    Bishop (GA)
    Donnelly (IN)
    Ross (AR)

    And the four Republican "nays":

    Ryan (WI)
  • TreeTop on November 18, 2011 2:37 PM:

    "Ryan's office explained that the Wisconsin Republican was concerned that the version of the BBA on the floor would have led to larger government; Dreier explained in floor remarks on Thursday that while he had supported the 1995 measure, he had since come to believe that Congress did not need to amend the Constitution in order to balance the budget."


  • Todd for VT House on November 18, 2011 2:39 PM:

    supporters fell short of achieving the two-thirds majority needed to amend the Constitution.

    Not to be a stickler, but 2/3 is not required to amend the Constitution. 2/3 is required to propose an amendment to the People (Legislatures or Conventions).

  • Holmes on November 18, 2011 2:45 PM:

    Drier sounds downright sensible in the above cited excerpt. Crazy.

  • June on November 18, 2011 2:54 PM:

    Omg, Louis "terra' babies!!!" Gohmert voted against it? I must be in an alternate universe.

  • Peter C on November 18, 2011 3:09 PM:

    I think we should say, "GOP FAILS TO PASS their balanced budget amendment". GOP FAILS. GOP FAILS. repeat as often as possible.

  • johnny canuck on November 18, 2011 3:28 PM:

    Todd for VT House on November 18, 2011 2:39 PM:

    You seem to have a different version of the constitution!

    To Propose Amendments

    * Two-thirds of both houses of Congress vote to propose an amendment, or

    * Two-thirds of the state legislatures ask Congress to call a national convention to propose amendments. (This method has never been used.)

    To Ratify Amendments

    * Three-fourths of the state legislatures approve it, or

    * Ratifying conventions in three-fourths of the states approve it. This method has been used only once -- to ratify the 21st Amendment -- repealing Prohibition.

  • exlibra on November 18, 2011 6:07 PM:

    So all that excitement, when Hochul won that special election of a traditionally Repub district, was for naught? It remained a traditionally Repub district?

  • Gingerpye on November 18, 2011 9:08 PM:

    I live in Sanford Bishop's (D-GA) district. I just sent him an email saying I hoped his vote for the amendment was because he will be in a tough re-election fight next year and not because he thought it was in the best interests of the country. Also told him that not everyone in his district is low information or a Tea Party Republican and it would be nice for a nominal Democrat to vote like one. It's so frustrating to be a progressive in a Southern state. To be fair, though, he did vote yes for PP-ACA.