Ed and I have warned repeatedly of the dangers of the clean balanced budget amendment that was up for a vote in the House of Representatives today. Without spending caps or a supermajority requirement to raise taxes, this particular BBA essentially amounted to a license to spend profligately and hike taxes however high to balance the budget. Under it, deficit spending — exactly what any BBA purports to eliminate — would even be allowed by a bare three-fifths supermajority (not as high a standard as a two-thirds supermajority).
Luckily, the House voted down the amendment. With 261 in favor and 165 opposed, the chamber fell 23 votes shy of the two-thirds requirement to pass an amendment to the constitution.
As a reminder, as part of the Budget Control Act (i.e. the act that unsatisfactorily ended this summer’s debt ceiling debate), Congress promised to at least vote on a balanced budget amendment. Today’s action satisfies that requirement of the BCA — but is a far cry in two respects from what Republicans originally pushed for with “Cut, Cap and Balance.”
In the first place, Republicans who wanted CCB to be the price of a debt ceiling increase wanted the amendment passed and sent to the states before we raised the debt ceiling. Obviously, that didn’t happen. But, in the second place, and most importantly, they didn’t just want any old BBA; they wanted an amendment that would force major spending cuts. Again, this amendment was not that.
What’s most disturbing to me about this vote, though, is that just four Republicans voted against it. Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan was one of them.
“I’m concerned that this version will lead to a much bigger government fueled by more taxes,” he explained.
Ryan is right.
Incidentally, I’m surprised so many Dems voted against it. What don’t they like about “a much bigger government fueled by more taxes?”
Today’s vote is troubling for another reason, too. This gives politicians the opportunity to curry unwarranted favor with the many Americans who support a balanced budget amendment. Today provides cover to both Republicans who promised to take action on a BBA and to Blue Dog Democrats, who most assuredly would have voted against a BBA with caps and a supermajority requirement. Now, all 261 representatives who voted in favor of the BBA can say, “Don’t blame us for the deficit and debt. We voted in favor of a balanced budget amendment.”
As an unabashed and staunch supporter of Cut, Cap and Balance (I cried when it failed the Senate!), I’m disappointed with today’s poor, pale and purely political attempt to prove commitment to the “balance” bit of CCB — and relieved this particular BBA failed.