House plans vote on balanced budget amendment

July 26, 2011 - 11:15 AM

WASHINGTON (AP) — House GOP leaders are planning a vote Thursday on a proposed amendment to the Constitution requiring a balanced budget.

The vote comes as Congress struggles to pass legislation increasing the government's borrowing cap to avoid a U.S. default, and could help spur movement on the debt limit issue.

Some tea party-backed lawmakers are insisting on passage of a balanced budget amendment before they consider voting to increase the government's borrowing authority.

Thursday's vote comes in the wake of House passage last week of a "cut, cap and balance" measure that would have conditioned a $2.4 trillion increase in the debt limit on adoption by both House and Senate of a balanced budget amendment.

The latest House effort, however, is unlikely to win the two-thirds margin required. In the House, advocates are pushing a version far more stringent than the one that won significant Democratic support in 1995. Failure would further demonstrate the futility involving the cut, cap and balance measure, which was killed by Senate Democrats last week anyway.

The House passed a balanced budget amendment in 1995 but it fell just one supporter short in the Senate.

"I'm excited," said Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers, R-Wash. "There is broad bipartisan support for moving forward on a balanced budget and we are going to be taking action this week."

In fact, this year's effort for a balanced budget amendment has been set back by GOP strategists insisting on advancing a tea party-backed version rather than one that might win the Democratic votes required to pass.

This year's version would require a two-thirds vote by Congress to raise taxes, which would make it virtually impossible to forge a so-called grand bargain on the budget that would win bipartisan support. And it also would have required a tax reform outline supported by House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to win a two-thirds vote.

In addition, the new version of the amendment would require a two-thirds vote to permit the size of the government to exceed 18 percent of the size of the economy — levels that haven't been seen since before Medicare. And the controversial House GOP proposal would reduce the size of government to 20 percent of gross domestic product by the end of the decade. It would require additional cuts exceeding $400 billion in 2021 alone to adhere to the new version of the amendment.