by Jeremy Leaming
The House, led by Democratic members, defeated a proposed constitutional amendment to mandate a balanced budget. Opponents of the so-called balanced budget amendment argued that the proposed measure contained no mechanism for ensuring that the federal budget would indeed be balanced and would require courts to intervene in sorting out budgetary matters.
The measure, similar to one the House passed in 1995, mandates that the federal government could not spend more revenue than it takes in. The proposed amendment, pushed by Rep. Robert Goodlatte (R-Va.), was defeated by a 261 – 165 vote, The Associated Press reports.
“A constitutional amendment is not a path to a balanced budget,” Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) said. “It is only an excuse for members of this body failing to cast votes to achieve one.”
Earlier this week, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) sent a letter to fellow Democrats opposing the amendment, and urging them to read an ACS Issue Brief released this week examining “the dangers of enshrining a balanced budget requirement within the Constitution.”
Rep. Hollen’s letter concluded, “A Constitutional amendment that cannot easily be enforced to balance the budget is a hollow gesture that at the very least will be ineffective. At the very worst, a balanced budget amendment enshrined within the Constitution could generate a Constitutional impasse with catastrophic consequences.”
The ACS Issue Brief by Neil Kinkopf, a Georgia State University law school professor, states, in part, that the proposed amendment “provides no express enforcement mechanism. The leading proposals simply declare that total outlays shall not exceed total receipts, without explaining how this balanced budget is to be achieved. Merely imposing a mandate does not mean Congress will be able to fulfill it.”