Balanced-budget amendment passage not required for second debt-limit hike

The agreement brokered by the White House and congressional Republicans would not require congressional passage of a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution as a condition for increasing the debt ceiling.

The deal does require the House and Senate to vote on a balanced-budget amendment sometime in the last calendar quarter of this year. But not requiring congressional passage is a significant change from the proposal the House passed on Friday.

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The House-passed bill would have increased the debt ceiling by $900 billion immediately and allowed a second $1.6 trillion increase only if a greater amount of cuts were found by a new congressional committee and the House and Senate had passed a balanced-budget amendment.

In the compromise agreement, the second debt-ceiling increase is slightly lower — $1.5 trillion  but and conditioned on passage of a balanced-budget amendment.

Instead, it says this second increase would be authorized if the committee finds a greater number of cuts or if Congress has approved a balanced-budget amendment. While no text of the deal was available as of Sunday night, this "either/or" mechanism was explained to House Republicans today in a presentation from House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).

The change could make it harder for House Republicans to win support from some members of their own caucus. Several signed on to Boehner's bill Friday only because of the provision that would have required Congress to pass a balanced-budget amendment.

At the same time, the compromise agreement is likely to be supported by at least some House Democrats given support from President Obama.

In comments from Boehner's meeting with Republicans that were released to reporters, Boehner appeared to be seeing the new language in the bill as something that might create "new incentives" to support a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution.