The federal government has consistently run deficits—with the exception of a few years in the late 1990s.
Some say that the only way to solve the budget problem we face is to amend the United States Constitution to require the government to balance its budget.
After all, 49 of the nation’s 50 states require enactment of a balanced budget.
If it’s good enough for the nation’s governors and state legislatures, why is it not good enough for the federal government?
In its simplest form, a balanced budget amendment would add a budget rule to the Constitution that would require federal spending not to exceed federal receipts.
The amendment would make it unconstitutional for the federal government to run annual budget deficits.
Some of the most frequent additional elements are: Supporters of a balanced budget amendment argue that respect for the Constitution will create strong political pressure to rein in deficits and impose needed accountability for irresponsible fiscal policy.
No BBA measure passed either body of Congress until 1982, when the Senate took 11 days to consider it and mustered the necessary two-thirds majority on the version crafted by Senator Strom Thurmond (R–SC). A companion measure received a vote of 236 to 187 in the House—short of the required two-thirds.
Despite opposition from Speaker Thomas “Tip” O’Neill (D–MA), the floor vote was obtained by means of a discharge petition led by Representatives Barber Conable (R–NY) and Ed Jenkins (D–GA). Subsequently, continuing opposition from Speaker O’Neill and his successor, Jim Wright (D–TX), prompted creative use of discharge petitions to circumvent leadership opposition.
Download the PDF The 2011 Budget Control Act, which was enacted to end the impasse over raising the federal debt limit last summer, mandated that both houses of Congress vote on a balanced budget amendment by the end of 2011.
The House fell 23 votes short of the two-thirds majority that is required to advance an amendment to the U. Constitution; in the Senate, the amendment garnered only 47 votes, well short of the 67 votes needed for passage.
The battle has raged for decades and with Republicans gaining control of the House of Representatives, it will come to the forefront again.