Balanced Budget Amendment

The Balanced Budget Amendment (BBA) is a proposed amendment to the United States Constitution that aims to constrain federal spending by various means, including prohibiting annual federal outlays from exceeding receipts.

BBA legislation has been introduced regularly in Congress since the late 1970’s. but has never reached the two-thirds support in both chambers needed to pass. Proponents have also worked to adopt resolutions in enough states to convene an Article V Constitutional convention on the subject. Twenty-eight of the 34 states needed to convene a constitutional convention have adopted a resolution to that effect as of 2017, according to the Center on Budget Policy Priorities.

One version of the Balanced Budget Amendment, introduced by Senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch in 2021, included the following provisions:

  • Require the President to submit a balanced budget;
  • Require Congress to pass a balanced budget;
  • Restrict federal spending to 18 percent of the Gross Domestic Product;
  • Require two-thirds majority votes in the House and Senate to raise taxes; and
  • Require a new three-fifths majority vote in both houses of Congress to raise the debt limit. 

Exceptions to the BBA in cases of wartime or other national emergencies would require supermajority approval.

Supporters of the Balanced Budget Amendment argue that it is essential to impose fiscal discipline on Congress and control the growing national debt. Opponents emphasize that prohibiting Congress from operating deficits would lead to longer and more devastating national recessions.