Senate panel to examine ‘perils’ of balanced budget amendment


(Cliff Owen/Associated Press)

As the Senate readies to vote next month on a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution, a Judiciary subcommittee on Tuesday announced plans to hold a hearing examining the potential effects of such a measure.

The hearing, “A Balanced Budget Amendment: The Perils of Constitutionalizing the Budget Debate,” is set to take place before the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights next Wednesday at 10 a.m.

News of the hearing comes one week after a balanced budget amendment fell short of the two-thirds necessary to win approval in the House. The Republican-authored measure, which was nearly identical to a 1995 balanced budget amendment that passed the chamber with the support of 72 House Democrats, last week won the backing of only 25 Democratic lawmakers.

Senate leaders have not indicated what type of balanced budget amendment they are likely to bring to the floor, but last week’s House vote suggests that most of the Senate’s 53 members who caucus with Democrats would be opposed to even a moderate version of a BBA.

Both last week’s House vote and next month’s Senate vote were mandated by the debt-ceiling deal signed into law by President Obama in August.

Republicans argue that a balanced budget amendment is necessary in order to force Congress to rein in spending; they also note that most states have adopted similar measures governing their finances. Democrats counter that such an amendment is unnecessary and could result in deep cuts to federal entitlement programs as well as make it more difficult for Congress to approve any tax-raising measures in times of crisis.

The White House said in a statement last week that it “strongly opposed” the House version of a balanced budget amendment, which it argued “risks accelerating economic downturns by requiring the government to raise taxes and cut spending in the face of a contraction, which would accelerate job losses.”

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