House Republicans don’t have time to address the jobs crisis, but they do have time for proposed constitutional amendments that would make the jobs crisis worse.
The lower chamber will vote today on a constitutional amendment to require balanced budgets — a proposal better known as one of the worst ideas in the history of bad ideas — the first time lawmakers have considered the measure since 1995. To move on to the Senate, the amendment will need 290 votes today, translating to roughly every Republican and about 50 House Democrats.
The good news is, GOP support is not unanimous. Yesterday, a key House Republican announced his opposition to the constitutional monstrosity. (thanks to Glenn Sugameli for the tip)
House Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier (R-Calif.) said he would vote against the balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution later this week, a high-profile Republican defection that will make it one vote harder for the GOP to find the 290 votes needed to pass their amendment on Friday.
Speaking on the House floor, Dreier said that while he supported an amendment in 1995, he has changed his mind, and now believes that Congress does not need to amend the Constitution in order to balance the budget. He said his 1995 vote was based on the belief that an amendment was the only way to balance the budget.
“I was wrong,” Dreier said. “Two short years later, we balanced the federal budget. We balanced the federal budget and that went on for several years.
“What I found … is that we were able to balance the federal budget without touching that inspired document, the U.S. Constitution,” said Dreier, a 16-term congressman and member of the GOP leadership who might be serving his final term.
“I’ve always been troubled by some who argue that the level of your commitment to a public policy issue is based only on your willingness to amend the Constitution to implement it,” Dreier added. “Well, I think that’s silly. I think that’s ridiculous.”
I honestly can’t remember the last time I agreed so enthusiastically with something a House Republican said.
At this point, it’s not clear exactly how many, if any, GOP lawmakers may agree with Dreier’s wisdom — I haven’t seen any solid vote counts — and nearly every Blue Dog Dem is expected to ignore party leaders and the White House to support the amendment.
I can only assume that BBA proponents have no interest in evidence, reason, history, or economics, but there can be no doubt that if this amendment is approved, it would be a tragedy from which the country would likely never recover.
A Balanced Budget Amendment would devastate the economy and make 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 that will get a vote today “is, frankly, nuts.” We’re talking about a proposal with no redeeming qualities.
In addition to all of the usual reasons a BBA is a tragic mistake, I’d just remind on-the-fence lawmakers of a couple of related points.
First, the whole idea of the BBA is a cheap cop-out. Policymakers who want to balance the budget can put together a plan to balance the budget. It’s hard work, of course, and would require sacrifice and compromise, but those who take this goal seriously can put in the effort and craft a plan.
Backers of this amendment really don’t want to. Instead of drafting a plan to balance the budget, BBA proponents want a constitutional gimmick that will mandate a policy goal they can’t figure out how to accomplish on their own. That’s not responsible policymaking; that’s the opposite.
And in case this isn’t already obvious, even the point of this endeavor is misguided. Sometimes, running deficits is the smart, responsible thing to do, and to assume that the budget should always be balanced is fundamentally misguided. It’s not even about left vs. right, since conservative priorities would be crushed, too. The entire Reagan agenda would have been unconstitutional in the 1980s, and Paul Ryan’s budget plan couldn’t even be considered if a BBA were ratified.
What sensible policymakers should be doing is dismissing this “pathetic joke” of a proposal as quickly as possible. It’s policy madness.