House Republicans last week insisted on passing their radical “cut, cap, and balance” plan, which would allow the federal debt ceiling to be raised only if a balanced budget amendment (complete with a federal spending cap and a supermajority requirement for tax increases) is approved by Congress and sent to the states. The Senate tabled the bill by a vote of 51-46.
Despite their plan failing to receive even a majority in the Senate — far less than the two-thirds required for a constitutional amendment — Republicans have continued to demand, as they have for months, that a balanced budget amendment be a part of any deal to raise the debt ceiling. And the GOP is framing its BBA push as some kind of favor for the next generation. For instance, Rep. Jeb Hensarling, who chairs the House Republican Conference, said today that the balanced budget amendment is “not about the next election. It’s about the next generation.” Watch it:
However, when the Republicans held both chambers of Congress from 2003 to 2006, and had a Republican in the White House, they not only didn’t approve a balanced budget amendment, they never even held a vote on it. In fact, the last vote on a BBA was in 1997, when Bill Clinton was president; the Senate defeated it by a single vote.
As we’ve extensively discussed, a balanced budget amendment is one of the worst ideas in Washington. It would force the government to make economic downturns worse by actively slashing spending in the face of falling revenue. Republicans are now claiming, in the name of the next generation of Americans, that enacting a balanced budget amendment is the price of averting economic catastrophe, but their utter indifference to the idea when they actually had the power to advance it shows that it’s nothing more than a political ploy.