US House Rejects Balanced Budget Amendment

Posted November 18th, 2011 at 5:40 pm (UTC-5)
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The U.S. House of Representatives has rejected legislation to force Congress to balance its budget, the latest development as lawmakers look for ways to cut spending.

Friday's vote of 261 for and 165 against failed to reach the two-thirds majority needed for passage. The measure, pushed by majority Republicans, would have amended the U.S. Constitution to require that Congress not spend more than it receives in any given fiscal year.

Meanwhile, a bipartisan committee is scrambling to identify budget cuts ahead of a key deadline next week.

The 12-member, congressional “supercommittee” has until midnight on Wednesday to cut $1.2 trillion in federal spending over the next decade or risk massive automatic cuts to defense and domestic programs beginning in January 2013. Congressional aides say the committee is making little progress on a comprehensive deal to reduce the deficit.

President Barack Obama, a Democrat, has signaled a willingness to restructure costly programs that provide income and health care to retirees. Mr. Obama has said he hopes the leaders of the committee will do what is necessary in the coming days to agree on a plan.

Critics argue that the drastic spending cuts needed to balance the budget would negatively impact an already weak economy.

The country's ballooning national debt passed $15 trillion earlier this week.

Republican leaders have said they are now willing to consider Democratic demands to include increased tax revenue as part of a comprehensive deal. Republicans have instead preferred deeper cuts to various health care and retirement programs.

The supercommittee of six Democrats and six Republicans came about as part of a debt-ceiling agreement reached by Congress earlier this year following a long, partisan battle over budget cuts that brought the U.S. government to the brink of a shutdown.

The debt-ceiling agreement also required that both the House and Senate vote on a balanced budget amendment.

Separately, Congress approved a stopgap measure on Thursday that allows the federal government to keep operating because current funding levels were to expire Friday. The bill, signed Friday by President Obama, funds the government through December 16.