House tees up vote on balanced budget amendment

Greg Nash

The House is slated to vote next week on a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution after lawmakers return from their Easter recess.

The decision to bring the measure — which would require Congress not to spend more than it brings in — to the floor comes just weeks after the passage of a $1.3 trillion spending package that is projected to add billions to the deficit.

The amendment, introduced by House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), would require a “true majority” in both the House and Senate to pass tax increases and a three-fifths majority in both chambers to increase the debt limit.

The measure has virtually no chance of becoming law as it would need Democratic support in the Senate and ratification from the majority of states. While conservative hard-liners largely support the proposal, critics argue adding a constitutional amendment could weaken economic activity and exacerbate recessions by limiting the government’s ability to spend money.

The decision to take up the measure stems from an agreement struck between Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Republican Study Committee Chairman Mark Walker (R-N.C.) in October. Ryan agreed on a vote on the amendment in exchange for conservative support on a procedural budget measure needed for Republicans to move forward on tax reform.

The tax law passed by Republicans is projected to add more than $1 trillion to the deficit, though the GOP disputes that assessment, saying economic growth will make up much of the difference.

With conservatives looking to bolster the party’s fiscal credentials ahead of the midterm elections, attention has turned back to the balanced budget amendment.

Supporters argue the amendment is needed to get government spending under control, particularly with deficits now projected to hit $1 trillion over the course of the next decade. 

“A constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget would finally bring discipline to federal spending and would benefit generations to come. I have demonstrated my commitment to fiscal responsibility by introducing constitutional amendments to mandate a balanced budget every Congress since 2007,” Goodlatte said in a statement.

“I commend the decision made by House leadership to bring H.J.Res. 2 to the floor for a vote.  I challenge my colleagues in the House and Senate to do what is morally right and responsible by passing this amendment and sending it on to the states for ratification,” he said.

A GOP aide told The Hill the vote will likely be scheduled for Thursday, but the date is subject to change.

Tags Bob Goodlatte Mark Walker Paul Ryan
See all Hill.TV See all Video