Balanced Budget Amendment Rejected by House

By Matt Cover | November 18, 2011 | 3:06pm EST

House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, left, accompanied by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Va., center, and House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy of Calif., takes part in a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2011. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

( House of Representatives rejected a proposed balanced budget amendment (BBA) on Friday in a 261-165 vote, falling 29 votes shy of the 290 votes needed to pass the measure.

Most Republicans voted for the measure while a majority of Democrats opposed it. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said earlier this week that he would lobby his fellow Democrats to oppose the amendment.

The amendment was the same version as the one that passed the House in 1995 on a 300-132 vote before falling one vote short in the Senate.

The current version (H.J. Res 2) differed from the one contained in Cut, Cap, and Balance legislation that passed the House  in August.

Today’s failed BBA did not cap federal spending or restrict Congress’ ability to raise taxes. (The BBA in Cut, Cap, and Balance did cap spending as a percentage of GDP and required a supermajority to raise taxes.)

Tad DeHaven, a budget analyst with the libertarian Cato Institute, called the BBA with no cap on spending or taxation “political posturing” by the House Republicans, arguing that the amendment was a “distraction” because it would never pass the Senate, even if it passed the House.

Instead, DeHaven said that the GOP should focus on actually cutting spending, telling the public where they would cut to actually achieve a balanced budget.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), left,  and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.). (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

“Instead of actually squaring with the American people, they’re hiding behind a BBA to try and score political points,” DeHaven told “You have to get specific about what you’re going to cut.”

After today’s vote, Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.), who voted for the BBA, issued a statement, saying, “Today’s vote provided yet one more reason why the House should have stood firm for ‘Cut, Cap, Balance.’ It is purely political theater to require that the House and Senate simply take a vote on – rather than actually pass – a Balanced Budget Amendment. It is just another symbolic exercise for the history books. Time and again, Washington has failed to enact structural reforms that would force politicians to get spending under control. ‘Cut, Cap, Balance’ was the opportunity of a lifetime to actually force Washington to balance its budget like 49 of the 50 states are required to do.”

“It’s disappointing that when we had $14.3 trillion in debt this summer the House did not stand its ground and force the Democratic Senate to take up  ‘Cut, Cap, Balance’ to reverse Washington’s addition of spending,” said Huelskamp.  “But, it’s even more disappointing that in the same week that America surpasses the $15 trillion debt threshold, Democrats still continue to balk at the idea of requiring Washington to balance its budget.”

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