White House opposes balanced-budget amendment

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration said Tuesday that a balanced-budget amendment heading for a House vote this week could impose serious risks on the economy and force cuts to essential programs such as Medicare and Social Security.

The White House, in a statement, said it strongly opposed the balanced budget amendment being considered by the House. Instead, it said members of Congress should “move beyond politics as usual and find bipartisan common ground to restore us to a sustainable fiscal path.”

The debt ceiling agreement reached last summer that set up the bipartisan supercommittee commissioned with reducing the debt by at least $1.2 trillion over the next decade also required that Congress vote on a balanced-budget amendment.

The version being taken up by the House, sponsored by Rep. Robert Goodlatte, R-Va., would require that Congress not spend more than it receives in revenues unless three-fifths of both the House and the Senate vote to do so.

Republican leaders, trying to attract Democratic moderates, opted for the Goodlatte bill over tougher, tea party-backed versions that would put a tight cap on the federal budget and require a two-thirds vote in Congress to raise taxes.

The House vote is expected to be close, but the amendment faces a tougher road in the Democratic-controlled Senate. Proposed amendments to the Constitution must be approved by two-thirds majorities in both the House and the Senate and be ratified by three-fourths of state legislatures.

The White House said a balanced budget amendment would force the government to raise taxes and cut spending in bad economic times when there’s less money coming in, accelerating job losses. It said it could result in serious risks to the retirement security of millions of Americans, and result in big cuts to education, research and development, and other programs.

The House’s second-ranking Democrat, Steny Hoyer of Maryland, said he voted for a balanced-budget amendment in 1995, but would vote ‘no’ this time around. “Unfortunately, I did not contemplate the irresponsibility that I have seen fiscally” in the ensuing years and in recent months “where Republicans took America to the brink of default and placed the confidence of the world in America’s fiscal judgment at question.”

In 1995 an amendment similar to the Goodlatte measure passed the House but fell just one vote short in the Senate. Congress last voted on a balanced-budget amendment in 1997.

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