House of Representatives to Vote on the Constitutional Balanced Budget Amendment

By Rob Banaszak on November 15, 2011 in Policy/Advocacy

by Donna Crews, Government Affairs Director

As required in the Budget Control Act of 2011 the House and Senate must vote on a Constitutional Balanced Budget Amendment.  The  legislation states, “After September 30, 2011, and not later than December 31, 2011, the House of Representatives and Senate, respectively, shall vote on passage of a joint resolution, the title of which is as follows: ‘‘Joint resolution proposing a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution of the United States.’’’  There are relatively few legislative business days left before December 31st.  The House is scheduled to bring their version of a Constitutional Balanced Budget Amendment to the floor this week, with a vote on Friday, November 18th.

The proposed amendment H.J. Res 2, requires that outlays (what the government spends) do not exceed receipts (what the government brings in) each year, and requires a three-fifths majority to raise the debt ceiling. A similar version was passed by the House in 1995, with 300 votes, but failed in the Senate by only one vote. Constitutional amendments require a two-thirds majority to pass — 290 votes in the House, and 67 votes in the Senate.

The Senate may or may not bring the same version of the bill to the Senate floor and no time has been announced for a Senate vote.  If the exact legislation passed both chambers it would then be sent to the states for ratification by at least 38 states (3/4 of states) in a seven year period.  It would not require a signature from the President.  It is not expected that this legislation will get the necessary 2/3 majority votes to pass in either chamber, but we must advocate and ensure it does not pass.

A balanced budget amendment to the Constitution is not the solution to the current deficit situation we find the country in at this time.  Many economists believe a balanced budget amendment would be a terrible idea.  Macroeconomic Advisor (a nonpartisan mainstream firm) has said that, “any version of a balanced budget amendment would do significant harm to the American economy”, according to an article entitled Economic Forecasting Firm Harshily Criticizes Proposed Constitutional Balanced Budget Amendment posted here at the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities.

While Congress and the Administration strive to bring the budget as close to balanced as possible, there are many extenuating circumstances that often come to bear, such as wars, natural disasters, high unemployment, and need for government programs to cover safety net issues for the poor and disenfranchised.  Please read the letter signed by AIDS United and over 100 National Organizations Opposing the Balanced Budget Amendment.  The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities has additional background information on the balanced budget amendment that the House is considering and the amount of program cuts that may be implemented if the amendment was enacted.  Click here for further details and resources.

AIDS United is opposed to this legislation.  We urge you to contact your House Member of Congress and ask for a “No” vote on the Balanced Budget Amendment on Friday.

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