Democrats Urged to Vote Against Balanced Budget Amendment This Week

By Matt Cover | November 15, 2011 | 3:06pm EST

House Minority Whip Steny hoyer (D-Md.). (AP Photo.)

( – House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said he would whip his fellow Democrats to vote against the Balanced Budget Amendment (BBA) that Republicans likely will bring to the House floor on Thursday.

“I voted for the Balanced Budget Amendment in 1995 – in January of 1995. I will not vote for it this time,” Hoyer said at his weekly press briefing on Tuesday. “I am asking members to vote against it.”

Hoyer said he opposed the passage of a BBA this time because he felt Republicans would never compromise on the issue of raising taxes to help balance the budget.

“I did not contemplate the irresponsibility that I have seen fiscally over the last nine years – eight years of the Bush administration and Republican leadership of the House and the Senate,” Hoyer said.

“And [in] these last few months where Republicans took America to the brink of default and placed the confidence of the world in America’s fiscal judgment at question,” Hoyer continued. “I have had over the last 16 years a substantial erosion in my own confidence of the willingness of the other party to respond on a responsible path to get to balance, particularly paying for what they bought.”

House Republicans likely will bring a BBA to the floor as early as Thursday, with a vote held on the measure tentatively scheduled for late Friday. This version of the BBA, which House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said the GOP caucus supports “overwhelmingly,” does not cap spending as a percentage of GDP or require a supermajority to raise taxes.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), left, and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) . (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Many conservative leaders, including former Attorney General Edwin Meese III, have warned that a BBA without a spending cap and a supermajority to raise taxes will make it much easier for Congress to raise taxes, increase spending, and further expand the size of the federal government.

The BBA up for consideration by the House this week is H.J. Res 2, which was introduced in January by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.).

The legislation is slated by the House Committee on Rules under "items likely to be considered" during the week of Nov. 14

H.J. Res 2 would require a true majority, meaning that any proposed tax increase must get at least 51 votes in the Senate and 218 in the House to pass. Normally, bills can be passed by a majority of those members who are present for a vote, so long as there are enough members present to hold the vote – a condition called a quorum.

This version is not nearly as strong as the BBA included in the Cut, Cap, and Balance legislation that passed the House in August. That version failed in the Democrat-controlled Senate.

Cantor and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) won a mandatory vote in both chambers of Congress on a BBA as a condition of GOP support for the debt ceiling deal passed in August.

It is not clear whether the Senate will bring up its own BBA or will simply consider whatever the House passes.

In order for a BBA to pass in the House, it must gain 290 votes. Currently, the BBA Republicans will bring to the floor has only 240 co-sponsors, meaning that if the bill does not attract significant Democrat support, it will fail.

There currently are 242 Republicans and 192 Democrats in the House of Representatives.

Hoyer said he thinks the bill is “not likely” to pass the House. He argued that it was not a “tough vote” for Republicans to try to pass a BBA, saying that a truly tough vote would be for the GOP to vote to “pay for things” by raising taxes.

“Tough votes are paying for things,” Hoyer said. “It’s not a tough vote to pretend that you’re going to go for a balanced budget by having some amendment on the floor. What is tough is to pay for things.”

Hoyer said that Republicans lacked the “guts” to vote to raise the taxes necessary to “pay” for the things they wanted to do in the past.

“If you want to have tax cuts, if you want to cut revenues, make sure that you have the guts to cut spending commensurate with those cuts in taxes,” he said. “If you don’t have that kind of courage, then don’t criticize others for saying we need to pay for things and we don’t need an amendment to do it.”

The text of H.J. Res 2 is presented here:


Proposing a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled (two-thirds of each House concurring therein), That the following article is proposed as an amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which shall be valid to all intents and purposes as part of the Constitution when ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States within seven years after the date of its submission for ratification:

“article  —

“section 1. Total outlays for any fiscal year shall not exceed total receipts for that fiscal year, unless three-fifths of the whole number of each House of Congress shall provide by law for a specific excess of outlays over receipts by a rollcall vote.

“section 2. The limit on the debt of the United States held by the public shall not be increased, unless three-fifths of the whole number of each House shall provide by law for such an increase by a rollcall vote.

“section 3. Prior to each fiscal year, the President shall transmit to the Congress a proposed budget for the United States Government for that fiscal year in which total outlays do not exceed total receipts.

“section 4. No bill to increase revenue shall become law unless approved by a majority of the whole number of each House by a rollcall vote.

“section 5. The Congress may waive the provisions of this article for any fiscal year in which a declaration of war is in effect. The provisions of this article may be waived for any fiscal year in which the United States is engaged in military conflict which causes an imminent and serious military threat to national security and is so declared by a joint resolution, adopted by a majority of the whole number of each House, which becomes law. Any such waiver must identify and be limited to the specific excess or increase for that fiscal year made necessary by the identified military conflict.

“section 6. The Congress shall enforce and implement this article by appropriate legislation, which may rely on estimates of outlays and receipts.

“section 7. Total receipts shall include all receipts of the United States Government except those derived from borrowing. Total outlays shall include all outlays of the United States Government except for those for repayment of debt principal.

“section 8. This article shall take effect beginning with the fifth fiscal year beginning after its ratification.”.

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