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Balanced Budget Amendment Falls Short In House

Filed by KOSU News in Politics.
November 18, 2011

A balanced budget amendment to the Constitution just failed to get the two-thirds majority vote in the House that’s needed to move such a measure forward.

It was approved by a simple majority: 261 to 165. But for a two-thirds majority, at least 290 votes would be needed.

There are currently 434 House members (one seat is vacant). Of those, 242 are Republicans and 192 are Democrats.

The roll call showing how individual members voted will be posted here later. Four Republicans voted against the amendment. More than 20 Democrats voted “for” it. Other than those exceptions, the vote was along party lines.

The vote came as members of the so-called supercommittee that’s trying to hammer out a deal to narrow upcoming deficits continues to meet with a Wednesday deadline looming — that’s the day they’re supposed to vote on a plan.

As NPR’s David Welna reported for our Newscast desk, during the debate over the amendment Republicans made the case that since 49 states have some type of balanced budget amendment, it’s time the federal government did as well. After all, Uncle Sam has been running annual deficits of well more than $1 trillion in recent years and the federal debt is up to $15 trillion.

Democrats argued that there are times when deficits are necessary — such as when the economy is ailing and government spending goes up because of demands for such “safety nets” as jobless benefits, Medicaid and food stamps.

The amendment would provide some flexibility. Deficit spending would be allowed if approved by three-fifths votes in both the House and Senate. Congress could waive the amendment’s restrictions in times of war.

Amendments, of course, have to be approved by two-third majorities in both the House and Senate and then by at least “three fourths of the several States.” (The Constitution also provides for the calling of a “Convention for proposing Amendments,” if legislatures from at least two-thirds of the states request.)

Here’s the text of the proposed amendment:

JOINT RESOLUTION

Proposing a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled (two-thirds of each House concurring therein), That the following article is proposed as an amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which shall be valid to all intents and purposes as part of the Constitution when ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States within seven years after the date of its submission for ratification:

`Article –

`Section 1. Total outlays for any fiscal year shall not exceed total receipts for that fiscal year, unless three-fifths of the whole number of each House of Congress shall provide by law for a specific excess of outlays over receipts by a rollcall vote.

`Section 2. The limit on the debt of the United States held by the public shall not be increased, unless three-fifths of the whole number of each House shall provide by law for such an increase by a rollcall vote.

`Section 3. Prior to each fiscal year, the President shall transmit to the Congress a proposed budget for the United States Government for that fiscal year in which total outlays do not exceed total receipts.

`Section 4. No bill to increase revenue shall become law unless approved by a majority of the whole number of each House by a rollcall vote.

`Section 5. The Congress may waive the provisions of this article for any fiscal year in which a declaration of war is in effect. The provisions of this article may be waived for any fiscal year in which the United States is engaged in military conflict which causes an imminent and serious military threat to national security and is so declared by a joint resolution, adopted by a majority of the whole number of each House, which becomes law.

`Section 6. The Congress shall enforce and implement this article by appropriate legislation, which may rely on estimates of outlays and receipts.

`Section 7. Total receipts shall include all receipts of the United States Government except those derived from borrowing. Total outlays shall include all outlays of the United States Government except for those for repayment of debt principal.

`Section 8. This article shall take effect beginning with the later of the second fiscal year beginning after its ratification or the first fiscal year beginning after December 31, 2016.’.

[Copyright 2011 National Public Radio]

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