Helen Whalen Cohen

The Balanced Budget Amendment failed by 23 votes in the House today, as Republicans were unable garner support from their Democrat counterparts. There were 261 votes in favor, and 165 against.

The GOP-controlled House failed by 23 votes on Friday to muster the required two-thirds majority to pass a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution, a legislative exercise agreed upon by both parties this summer in the deal that raised the nation’s debt ceiling and created the deficit super committee.

Bipartisan support for the amendment was verified in the 261 to 165 tally.

But it faced a steep, uphill climb to get the two-thirds support 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.

In this highly charged partisan atmosphere, achieving the 284 votes needed for passage was a difficult road. The House has 242 Republicans and 192 Democrats, with one vacancy -- but eight members did not vote. Even if all 240 House Republicans who did vote had supported the measure, passage would have required 46 Democratic votes. In the end, only 25 Democrats backed the measure, and four Republicans voted against it.

When all was said and done, 236 Republicans and 25 Democrats voted in favor of it, and four Republicans (Gohmert, Ryan Dreier and Amash) voted against. Paul Ryan's vote against the amendment may come as a surprise to some, but the Congressman was concerned that the Amendment did not include any language restricting the growth of government, and instead could be used as an imperative to grow programs and raise taxes simultaneously. From Ryan's office:

“I’m concerned that this version will lead to a much bigger government fueled by more taxes.  Spending is the problem, yet this version of the BBA makes it more likely taxes will be raised, government will grow, and economic freedom will be diminished. Without a limit on government spending, I cannot support this Amendment.”


Helen Whalen Cohen

Helen Whalen Cohen is Associate Editor and Community Manager at Townhall.com.