A Constitutional amendment that would forbid Congress from running deficits failed in the House Friday, thanks to broad opposition by Democrats, who recognized it as a GOP messaging vehicle, and a tool they’d use to roll back safety net programs like Medicare and Social Security.
The final vote, was 261 - 165. Two-thirds of both chambers must agree to adopt any amendment to the Constitution. Both the House and the Senate are required under the terms of the debt limit law to hold a vote on a version of the BBA.
Scores of Democrats — enough to clear the House — voted for a similar amendment in 1995, after Republicans retook Congress under President Clinton. But Dem Whip Steny Hoyer — one of those Democrats — led the party’s opposition to it this time around, citing 15 years of Republican policy that obliterated budget surpluses, and near-universal GOP opposition to raising taxes, which would make the BBA effectively a Constitutional requirement to slash government programs.
Policy experts widely pan most versions of the Balanced Budget Amendment — particularly in weak economic times, when deficits are high — as hugely disruptive social policy, and a dangerous restriction on the government’s ability to stave off recessions and defend the country.
Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight, and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.