House Unable to Pass Constitutional Requirement for a Balanced Budget

Sunday, November 20, 2011 at 3:28 AM by

Rep. Kind votes for the amendment, and Rep. Ryan votes against it!

The U.S. House of Representatives voted Friday on a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced federal budget, but came up 23 votes short of the two-thirds majority needed to approve it. The vote was 261-165, with just four Republicans voting no, and only 25 Democrats voting for it. 

In light of concerns about the growing federal deficit, the balanced budget amendment (BBA) polls well, but Democrats fought the amendment because it would impair the ability of safety net programs to grow during an economic downturn, when the need is the greatest and when cuts would be devastating for the economy. A Nov. 15 report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities provides an analysis of the severe cuts that would have to be made in key programs like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other important government services.

Two of Wisconsin’s House members were among the small number of Representatives who crossed party lines on the vote. Rep. Ron Kind was one of 25 Blue Dog Democrats voting for the amendment, and Rep. Paul Ryan opposed it. Ryan argued that that it was too weak because the amendment applies just to the deficit and doesn’t directly put a cap on total spending. Despite receiving the backing of Blue Dog Democrats, the support among House Democrats was the lowest ever according to a Washington Post article.

An article about the vote in today’s San Francisco Chronicle notes that, “the Constitution has been amended just 27 times, though lawmakers have offered more than 11,000 proposals to alter it, according to congressional statistics.”

The issue will resurface next month. The Senate is required by the Budget Control Act to vote on a BBA before the end of the year.

Jon Peacock

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