House Oks Balanced Budget Amendment A Provision Requiring A Three-Fifths Majority To Raise Taxes Fails
The House voted overwhelmingly Thursday to add a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution by 2002, making good on perhaps the most the far-reaching promise in the Republicans’ “Contract With America.”
By a vote of 300-132, the House sent the measure to the Senate, where it is expected to encounter lengthy delays but ultimately be passed.
The House vote marked a major victory for House Speaker Newt Gingrich, although he and his new Republican majority lost a largely symbolic battle to include a provision requiring a threefifths majority to raise taxes, rather than a simple majority.
Once approved by Congress, the amendment has to be ratified by the legislatures of 38 states - a less predictable process sure to be affected by concerns at the state level over the impact of reduced federal spending.
Even so, Thursday’s vote was a milestone in what appears to be the most favorable climate for enactment ever encountered by amendment backers.
“This is an idea whose time has definitely come,” said Rep. Marge Roukema, R-N.J. “It puts everyone on notice that we must stop mortgaging the future. No more delays, no more excuses.”
Democrats, who fear the amendment will give lawmakers an excuse to dismantle social welfare programs, fought the measure but failed to stop it.
“I am concerned about the conservative political groups who in this country will exult because they will finally be able to shred the safety net constructed by Franklin Roosevelt,” said Rep. Richard Durbin, D-Ill.
Approval of the amendment came after the House refused Thursday to impose a constitutional requirement for a three-fifths majority to raise taxes.
The 253-173 vote on the tax limitation provision drew nearly unanimous support of House Republicans eager to assure that the balanced budget requirement does not simply increase pressure to raise taxes. But the tax clause lacked enough Democratic support to reach the 290 votes needed to approve a constitutional change.
If approved by Congress and ratified by the states, the balanced budget amendment would require the president to submit a budget every year in which revenue matches spending. Congress could not spend more than it has without three-fifths of the votes of each house.
Exceptions would be made for war or “imminent threat to national security.”