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Balanced Budget Amendment Mirroring 1995 Effort Fails to Get Two-Thirds in House

Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) leaves the House Republican Conference meeting in the Capitol on Jan. 9, 2018. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call via AP Images)

WASHINGTON — The latest attempt at a balanced budget amendment failed 233-184, after needing two-thirds approval from the House before being sent to states for ratification.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte’s (R-Va.) bill would have required that spending not exceed 20 percent of the country’s gross domestic product and banned deficit spending.

“The version we are debating today is nearly identical to text that passed the House in 1995 and failed in the Senate by one vote. It requires that total annual outlays not exceed total annual receipts. It also requires a true majority of each chamber to pass tax increases and a three-fifths majority to raise the debt limit,” Goodlatte said on the House floor.

“Today is the day we can turn proposals into legislative action,” he added. “Our extraordinary fiscal crisis demands an extraordinary solution. We must rise above partisanship and join together to send a balanced budget amendment to the states for ratification.”

The Congressional Budget Office projected in a report this week that deficit spending will increase $11.7 trillion over the next decade.

Seven Democrats voted in favor of the balanced budget amendment, while six Republicans voted against it, including libertarian GOPs Justin Amash (Mich.) and Tom Massie (Ky.), who declared that the bill “defines audacity.”

“We should balance the budget, and we should also get our spending priorities in order. The first job of the federal government is to defend the country, but we are now spending only 15 percent of the budget on national defense. First things have to come first,” House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) said after voting for the amendment. “We have been short-changing the men and women who are risking their lives to defend us. That is wrong, and we have to do better.”

At her weekly press conference, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said the bill was “no way balanced in terms of values and how we invest our future to keep America number one in every respect.”

She branded the amendment “budget engineering to force devastating cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.”

“Republicans want America’s seniors to give up one — the pillars of their health and economic security, retirement security, to pay for GOP giveaways to the wealthiest,” Pelosi said before predicting “this is absolutely going nowhere.”