The House held a long-awaited vote this afternoon on a balanced-budget amendment to the Contstitution, but failed to secure the two-thirds majority required for passage. The measure fell 261-161, coming up short by just 23 votes. (Because some members weren’t present, 284 votes were needed.)
Republicans supported the amendment 236-4, while Democrats voted 161-25 against. When the House last voted on a balanced-budget amendment in 1995, it passed with a 300-132, with 70 Democrats voting in favor.
“The House had an opportunity to put an end to Washington’s out-of-control spending, and it is unfortunate that Democrats who supported this measure in the past chose not to today,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R., Va.) said in a statement. “The uncertainty caused by our nation’s $15 trillion debt is burdening families and businesses and adding to economic uncertainty. Hardworking taxpayers are rightly worried about what the debt situation means for their future and their children’s future.”
The four Republicans voting against were: Reps. David Dreier (R., Calif.), Louis Gohmert (R., Texas), Justin Amash (R., Mich.) and House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan (R., Wis.), who had expressed concern that the amendment, as written, “will lead to a much bigger government fueled by more taxes.”
The measure under consideration was a “clean” balanced-budget amendment, which would have simply prohibited Congress from spending more than it takes in (but set no limits on spending or taxation levels), and would have required a three-fifths majority to approve any borrowing.
House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) was quick to criticize Democrats, including President Obama, following the vote. “It’s unfortunate that Democrats still don’t recognize the urgency of stopping Washington’s job-crushing spending binge,” he sad. “And it’s disappointing that a president who says ‘we can’t wait’ to take action on jobs is doing just that: waiting, riding things out until the election, and skipping opportunities to work together with Republicans to create a better environment for job growth.”