On Friday the balanced budget amendment, known as House Joint Resolution No. 2, failed to achieve the two-thirds majority it needed for passage in the House of Representatives. The amendment called for the president to present a balanced budget to Congress annually for amendment and passage by simple majority votes. Subsequent deficit spending would have been fully permissible with 3/5s majority votes in both houses. The amendment would not have applied in times of war or national emergencies.
Four Republicans saw the amendment's simple majority requirement for raising taxes as a too readily easy way of making the current consumers of government pay for the government they're consuming.
At the same time, 160 Democrats, including Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger from Maryland's 2nd District, wanted to make sure that deficit spending would remain as easy to carry out as spending that's paid for — no higher bar, no additional questions asked.
These 164 voices were enough to mute the 261 representatives (25 Democrats and 236 Republicans) who saw the amendment as the 112th Congress' last chance to show the world — and its credit rating agencies — that America does indeed care about its debt and will get its house in order.
Now their chance is gone. The 112th Congress will be rightly remembered (or forgotten, as it were) as a Congress that failed to answer the call when America's future generations asked it to protect them.
Larry Smith, Timonium
The writer, a Republican, is a candidate for Congress in Maryland's 2nd District.