John Ransom

The Balanced Budget Amendment that was agreed to be presented to Congress as part of the debt ceiling deal late last summer failed of passage in the House gaining 261 votes in favor with 165 opposed. The vote fell 23 votes short of the two-thirds requirement under the constitution to pass out of the House.

“The vote Friday ran largely along party lines,” reports the CS Monitor, “with 261 supporters including 25 Democrats and all but four Republicans.”

From the National Journal:

But it faced a steep, uphill climb to get to the two-thirds votes needed to pass. Republicans depicted the amendment as a way to force Congress to live within its means by ensuring total federal spending each year does not exceed total revenues. (Its limitations could be waived in the event of war.) Democratic leaders actively opposed it, arguing it could lead to sharp cuts in domestic spending based on House Republican budget priorities.

But in my opinion, the vote shows that at least in the House the BBA is alive and kicking.

Expect the issue to be a major one during the 2012 election cycle in the presidential race, US Senate races and House races.

If no one else will bring it up, I’ll probably mention it daily.

Because it’s clear that federal system needs the type of restraint that a balanced budget amendment can provide.

But others think that the vote today was one of those “I voted for the BBA before I voted against the BBA” moments that just serve to provide political cover for not doing anything.

Our friend, Tina Korbe, over at Hot Air observes:

Today’s vote is troubling for another reason, too. This gives politicians the opportunity to curry unwarranted favor with the many Americans who support a balanced budget amendment. Today provides cover to both Republicans who promised to take action on a BBA and to Blue Dog Democrats, who most assuredly would have voted against a BBA with caps and a supermajority requirement. Now, all 261 representatives who voted in favor of the BBA can say, “Don’t blame us for the deficit and debt. We voted in favor of a balanced budget amendment.”  

And indeed, as Korbe points, even budget stalwart Paul Ryan voted against the amendment because it didn’t cap spending. Ryan saw it as an opportunity to increase taxes and spending.

I’m more optimistic.

John Ransom

John Ransom is the Finance Editor for Townhall Finance, host of Ransom Notes Radio and you can catch more of the best money advice and monetary commentary by him daily 10am PT, 1pm ET at or on Comcast Cable