Brummett: Congress abdicates political responsibility to make wise cuts, but we don’t need balanced budget amendment (Part 6)

Senator Conrad calls Balanced Budget Amendment is laughable, but I think it is laughable when you look at the lack of resolve of Congress to make the necessary cuts!!!

John Brummett in his article “It may get personal in debt-limit end game,” Arkansas News Bureau, July 19, 2011 noted:

The White House is quietly encouraging the Reid-McConnell talks.

Meantime, there is talk of pandering to the tea party radicals in the unwieldy House by letting them pursue referral of a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution.

Ratification would take years. If enacted, such an amendment would amount to the same abdication of political responsibility to make wise and responsible cuts in spending as has been evident in the debt-ceiling debate.

It is obvious to me that the Balanced Budget Amendment is needed because of the “abdication of political responsibility to make wise and responsible cuts in spending” that Brummett is talking about and we have all seen for decades.

The real debate in my view should be which variety of amendment should we pass. This is a series of posts I am doing on that subject. They come from Brian Darling’s excellent article, ” The House and Senate Balanced Budget Amendments: Not All Balanced Budget Amendments Are Created Equal,” Heritage Foundation, July 14, 2011. 

Abstract: Republicans in the House and Senate have announced that they will force votes on balanced budget constitutional amendments. While the Senate and House versions of the current BBA are similar, there are some important differences that Members of Congress and the American people need to understand. For example, the Senate version makes it more difficult to enact revenue-neutral tax reform, while the House version would waive its tax limitation in times of military conflict. How Congress resolves these differences could determine whether future Congresses and Presidents balance the budget without increasing taxes.


These proposed balanced budget amendments differ on some fundamental issues that would dramatically affect the way Congress attempts to balance the budget. The House version, for example, is easier to waive. There is a lower threshold to declare military conflict in the House version that would allow for an easier waiver. Also, the tax limitation—forcing a two-thirds vote to increase taxes—would be waived in times of military conflict in the House version. The House version allows a lower supermajority threshold to pass an unbalanced budget than the Senate version does.

The Senate version makes it more difficult to enact revenue-neutral tax reform. The provision that forces a two-thirds vote to raise any tax would make it more difficult to modify the tax code in a revenue-neutral manner to implement a flat tax. For a flat tax to work, some Americans might have their tax rates increased as a means to make every American pay the same rate.

Also, neither version contains the complete ban on judicial enforcement that is necessary to prevent activist judges from setting budget priorities, which is a job reserved for the political branches of government.

The differences between the House and Senate BBAs may seem small to those who are not steeped in the budget process, but they will have a dramatic impact on the lives of all Americans. Ultimately, these differences would need to be reconciled in a manner that leads to a balanced budget without jeopardizing U.S. military interests or punishing taxpayers.

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