April 1, 2011
Balanced Budget Constitutional Amendment Proposal
A Joint Resolution proposing an amendment to the United States Constitution seeks to impose caps and super-majorities for deviating from such caps in certain instances:
SECTION 1. Total outlays for any fiscal year shall not exceed total receipts for that fiscal year, unless two -thirds of the duly chosen and sworn Members of each House of Congress shall provide by law for a specific excess of outlays over receipts by a roll call vote.
SECTION 2. Total outlays for any fiscal year shall not exceed 18 percent of the gross domestic product of the United States for the calendar year ending before the beginning of such fiscal year, unless two-thirds of the duly chosen and sworn Members of each House of Congress shall provide by law for a specific amount in excess of such 18 percent by a roll call vote.
SECTION 3. Prior to each fiscal year, the President shall transmit to the Congress a proposed budget for the United States Government for that fiscal year in which—
SECTION 4. Any bill that imposes a new tax or increases the statutory rate of any tax or the aggregate amount of revenue may pass only by a two-thirds majority of the duly chosen and sworn Members of each House of Congress by a roll call vote. For the purpose of determining any increase in revenue under this section, there shall be excluded any increase resulting from the lowering of the statutory rate of any tax.
SECTION 5. The limit on the debt of the United States shall not be increased, unless three-fifths of the duly chosen and sworn Members of each House of Congress shall provide for such an increase by a roll call vote.
Bruce Bartlett has an extensive critique of the proposal, including a discussion of the "gross domestic product" notion as becoming constitutionalized:
The gross domestic product is not a concept defined in law and is revised constantly; from time to time, the Bureau of Economic Analysis revises the GDP data all the way back to 1929. And of course, the 18 percent figure is totally arbitrary; the proposal effectively assumes that all federal outlays consist of funds that are appropriated annually, rather than consisting primarily of mandatory programs such as Social Security, Medicare and interest on the debt.
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