House Roll Call 606 (7-19-11) H.R. 2560 Cut, Cap and Balance Act.
Passed in House 234 to 190, 8 not voting.
Bill Summary: Establishes the discretionary spending limits for FY2012 — a Cut of roughly $110 billion — and sets up procedures to enforce those limits. Amends the Congressional Budget Act of 1974 to establish for the next several years a Cap on total outlays as a percentage of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (initially 21.7 percent for FY 2013). And last, it conditions approval for a raise in the debt ceiling from $14.294 trillion to $16.7 trillion on the submission of a Balanced Budget Amendment to the states. (Hence, Cut, Cap, and Balance.)
Analysis: Fortunately, this dangerously deceptive GOP posturing measure was tabled in the Senate as expected. The measure rides on understandable public abhorrence of massive federal spending, deficits, and debt, which many voters recognize as the root cause of America’s economic woes. However, we must object to each of the three parts to this measure:
- The cuts are too modest and need to be based on the Constitution not on some recent spending level before the latest recession. See our “Congress Is the Key!” introduction for James Madison’s judgment that the House, acting alone, can rein in spending.
- Federal programs and spending must be cut back to authorized functions. The implementation of a spending cap based on gross domestic product would tend to legitimize existing and future unconstitutional programs as long as some political economists tell us we can afford them. A strict enforcement of the Constitution we already have, not some new arbitrary spending limit that forgives violations, is the key to unleashing American productivity and achieving unprecedented prosperity.
- A Balanced Budget Amendment, while superficially appealing, is a bad and dangerous political copout. The Constitution isn’t broke, it’s merely ignored. A majority of either house of Congress can balance the budget any time it has the political will to do so. By contrast it requires a two-thirds vote of both the House and Senate to send a proposed amendment to the states for ratification. The states are frequently allowed up to 10 years for three-quarters of them to ratify the amendment. In the meantime, we have business as usual
There are two other problems with the BBA. The difficulty in getting Congress to propose a BBA continues to be used as a pretext to persuade the state legislatures, goaded by misguided conservatives, into calling for a constitutional convention. Such a convention could not be limited to a single topic, but could rewrite our entire Constitution — a goal of the Insider Establishment, which dominates our media.
And second, the concept of a BBA supports the fantasy that establishing a rule can substitute for informed oversight. An ill-informed American public has not insisted that Congress enforce the Constitution we already have. Another measure to ignore, or worse yet, to misuse is not the answer. We certainly don’t want an amendment that can be used to force a tax increase to balance the budget.
We have assigned (good vote) to the Noes and (bad vote) to the Ayes. (P = voted present; ? = not voting; blank = not listed on roll call.)