Issue: H.J. Res. 2, Proposing a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution of the United States. Question: On Motion to Suspend the Rules and Pass (2/3 vote required). GOP only scored.
Result: Failed in House, 233 to 184, 11 not voting.
Freedom First Society: H.J. Res. 2 substitutes misleading posturing for immediate constructive action to begin rolling back unconstitutional programs. Defects in the Constitution are not responsible for out-of-control government. However, by blaming the Constitution, the Republican majority covers up its refusal to use regular order and the House’s power of the purse to restore constitutionally limited government. We do not score the Democrats on this one, as the overt big spenders undoubtedly opposed it for the wrong reason.
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Not only is this proposed constitutional amendment deceptive, it’s dangerous (see below).
We have assigned (good vote) to the Nays and (bad vote) to the Yeas. (P = voted present; ? = not voting; blank = not listed on roll call.)
Congressional Research Service (CRS) Summary: This joint resolution proposes a constitutional amendment prohibiting total outlays for a fiscal year from exceeding total receipts for that fiscal year unless Congress authorizes the excess by a three-fifths roll call vote of each chamber. The prohibition excludes outlays for repayment of debt principal and receipts derived from borrowing.
The amendment requires a three-fifths roll call vote of each chamber of Congress to increase the public debt limit. It requires a majority roll vote of each chamber to increase revenue. It also requires the President to submit a balanced budget to Congress annually.
Congress is authorized to waive these requirements when a declaration of war is in effect or if the United States is engaged in a military conflict which causes an imminent and serious military threat to national security.
Analysis: With this and similar proposed balanced-budget amendments (BBA), representatives are engaged in deceptive finger pointing while putting the entire Constitution in danger.
The Available Power of the Purse
Freedom First Society has repeatedly pointed out how America’s Founding Fathers gave the House of Representatives the power of the purse as a means for the people through their representatives to control their government. A majority in the House alone, with sufficient backbone and the support of an informed electorate, can bring the federal government under control, and that majority can start in any fiscal year. (See “If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It,” by Andrew Carver.)
No “Relief” for Up to 12 Years!
However, H.J. Res. 2, by suggesting the Constitution first needs to be fixed, allows up to seven years for the states to ratify the amendment, and then another five years (Section 8), before it would take effect: “This article shall take effect beginning with the fifth fiscal year beginning after its ratification.”
No Focus on Reducing Spending
There are several other serious problems with H.J. Res. 2. The focus of the amendment is on balancing the budget, not on reducing spending, particularly unconstitutional spending. Only a majority of both Houses (Section 4) are required to raise taxes (with the president’s signature), whereas three-fifths are required to accept an unbalanced budget. This provides an excuse for Congress to balance the budget by increasing taxes.
Indeed, during the debate, Representative Andy Biggs (AZ-05), one of the few Republicans to vote against the resolution, expressed his concern: “The issue for me is, when I look at it, I see that we make it easier to raise taxes, that is what we make it easier to do, by a 51 percent vote.”
Enforce Existing Law (the Constitution)
If unconstitutional spending were eliminated, the budget would balance easily. But there is little political attention given to restoring and enforcing limited constitutional government. It is well to ask, how can passing another law (constitutional amendment) fix a failure to enforce existing laws (the Constitution)?
No Real Teeth
Moreover, for all the effort, ostensibly to add teeth, the amendment provides a simple majority in Congress with an out (Section 5): “The provisions of this article may be waived for any fiscal year in which the United States is engaged in military conflict which causes an imminent and serious military threat to national security and is so declared by a joint resolution, adopted by a majority of the whole number of each House, which becomes law.”
The president’s proposed budget has no teeth, so requiring the president to submit one that balances revenue with outlays (Section 3) accomplishes little.
The Con-con Danger
In order for Congress to pass H.J. Res. 2 and send the amendment to the states for their ratification, two-thirds of both chambers must approve. For many years this has proven to be an insurmountable obstacle, (wisely preventing spurious amendments). This refusal by Congress (thank goodness) is then used by various groups that would like to get their hands on the Constitution to push the states to call a constitutional convention through the Article V process. (See, “In a Nutshell, the Case Against a Con-con,” by Andrew Carver.)
State legislators, frustrated over the bloated federal government’s intrusion into state matters and its consuming of tax dollars that could go directly to the states, are being constantly hammered to call such a convention. And a leading pretext is the ostensible need to pass a balanced-budget amendment in view of the refusal/inability of Congress to propose one. (See our “Expose the Article V Con-con Fraud” campaign.)
There is a solution to our fiscal mess — enforcing the Constitution. But it’s not an easy one in today’s climate, particularly if the problem and its solution are widely ignored or not understood.
Backbone in Congress has to come from an informed electorate. And informing that electorate requires organization, since the long and well-organized Establishment forces that control the major media are misinforming Americans in so many ways. Providing that organizational leadership is the mission of Freedom First Society.
And our online congressional scorecardis one of our tools for helping concerned Americans control their government. We recommend that concerned citizens share the scorecard widely.