Balanced Budget Amendment Fails in the House

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House lawmakers rejected a constitutional amendment to balance the budget by a vote of 261-165 on Friday.

Supporters of the the measure viewed it as the only way to force Congress to get its financial affairs in order after years of massive deficits.

Congress "has not made the tough decisions," Robert Goodlatte, R-Va., chief sponsor of the measure, said.
 
"We have overpromised the American people, and the fact of the matter is now we need to have something in the Constitution that the American people expect and demand of us, and that is a balanced budget amendment," he concluded.

House Democrats, who overwhelming voted against the bill, said it could have forced lawmakers to make spending cuts that would be harmful during economic downturns when federal revenues drop.

They also feared that arguments over how to achieve balance could result in Congress relinquishing its constitutional power over the purse to the courts.

"The Republican majority wants to enshrine in the Constitution a permanent hostage crisis for our economy," Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., said.

The move to take a vote was part of this summer's agreement to raise the federal government's debt ceiling.

Had the amendment passed, it would not have taken effect until 2017 or two years after its ratification.

* Originally aired on November 18, 2011.

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