Balanced Budget Amendments


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A proposal for an amendment to the Constitution that would require a balanced budget was first introduced on the floor of Congress in the 1940s but became a regular feature of congressional proceedings after 1971. Proponents argue that the national debt is too high and that nothing short of a constitutional amendment can reign in federal spending. Opponents generally reject the economic theory behind the call for debt ceilings and have also argued that budget defecits can be beneficial.It has since been introduced, in one fashion or another, more than six hundred times. In 1982, when it was endorsed by President Ronald Reagan, a balanced budget amendment passed the Senate but failed to pass the House. In 1995, when it enjoyed considerable partisan support, such a proposal nearly passed the required two-thirds majority in the House and Senate, but that is the closest this proposal has ever been to heading to the states for ratification. Since 1999, a balanced budget proposal has been re-introduced more than a hundred times, making it the most commonly proposed amendment of the twenty-first century. Its bipartisan support has dimmed. In 2011, President Barack Obama expressed his opposition to such an amendment.

Balanced Budget Amendment Proposals Over Time

Balanced Budget Amendment Proposals Over Time. There is a spike in 1980s and has trailed off since then.


Congressional Research Service, “A Balanced Budget Constitutional Amendment: Background and Congressional Options,” 2019.

Frederick Dews, “Five Reasons Why a Federal Balanced Budget Amendment is a Bad Idea,” The Brookings Institute, 2014.

Daniel Mitchell, “Why America Needs a Balanced Budget Amendment,” The Heritage Foundation, 1993.

The Peter G. Peterson Foundation, Balanced Budget Amendment: Pros and Cons, 2021.