One of the top priorities of the House Republican leadership for this Congress was passage of a Balanced Budget Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. As of this afternoon, we can add another item to the list of GOP failures.

The House has rejected a proposed constitutional amendment that would have forced Congress to balance its budget every year as a way to reverse years of deficit spending.

A majority of House members supported the balanced budget measure, but supporters fell short of achieving the two-thirds majority needed to amend the Constitution.

Earlier this year, it was largely assumed the House would approve of the amendment and that the real fight would be in the Senate. As it turned out, however, proposal had no chance — it needed 290 votes in the lower chamber, and came up with 261.

To be sure, the fact that 261 House members said it was a good idea to add this ridiculous amendment to the Constitution isn’t exactly good news, but the fact that the measure died this afternoon is a welcome display of sanity from a chamber where it’s rarely found.

I’d note for context, by the way, that supporters are moving in the wrong direction. The last time the House voted on the BBA, in 1995, it passed with 300 votes. Today, despite a larger Republican majority, a larger deficit, and a far more right-wing chamber overall, proponents didn’t even come close to the previous total.

By my count, only four House Republicans voted against it. The majority needed roughly 50 Democrats to break ranks, but ended up with about half the necessary total. [Update: here’s the roll call.]

The nation dodged a bullet today. This amendment would have devastated the economy and made responses to future crises effectively impossible. Bruce Bartlett, a veteran of the Reagan and Bush administrations, explained this week that this is a “dreadful” idea and the Republican proposal “is, frankly, nuts.”

And now, thankfully, it’s dead for another Congress.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.