A balanced budget amendment (BBA) proposes to amend the U.S. Constitution to require that "outlays shall not exceed revenues." Constitutional amendments require a two-thirds vote of approval in both houses of Congress as well as ratification by three-fourths of the states.
Proposed BBAs have historically included additional provisions that may be as contentious as the requirement that outlays not exceed revenues. Such provisions are summarized below.
While congressional committees have held hearings on BBAs in the past few Congresses, the House and Senate have not voted on a BBA since 2011. In the 112th Congress, the Budget Control Act of 2011 (P.L. 112-25) included a requirement that the House and Senate vote on passage of a BBA between September 20, 2011, and December 31, 2011.
On November 18, 2011, the House considered H.J.Res. 2 (introduced by Representative Goodlatte), which proposed an amendment that would require three-fifths of each chamber to agree to increase the debt limit or to allow outlays to exceed receipts. The bill also included a waiver for war. By a vote of 260-165, the bill failed to achieve the two-thirds vote required for passage. On December 14, 2011, the Senate voted on two proposed BBAs, both of which failed to achieve a simple majority. The first, S.J.Res. 10 (introduced by Senator Hatch), would have required three-fifths of each chamber to agree to increase the debt limit. The measure would also have required two-thirds of each chamber to agree to increases in revenue, to allow outlays to exceed 18% of the "economic output" of the United States, or to allow outlays in excess of receipts. The bill included a waiver for war. The Senate rejected S.J.Res. 10 by a vote of 47 to 53.
The second proposed BBA, S.J.Res. 24 (introduced by Senator Udall), would have required three-fifths of each chamber to allow outlays in excess of receipts but included no such requirements on debt limit or revenue increases. The measure included a provision excluding all receipts and outlays related to the Federal Old-Age and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund and the Federal Disability Insurance Trust Fund for the purposes of the constitutional amendment and stated that no court of the United States or any state shall enforce the article by ordering any reduction in Social Security benefits. In addition, the measure would have prohibited Congress from providing a net reduction in income taxes for those individuals with annual incomes over $1 million if the measure's enactment would result in a deficit in the years affected by the bill. The bill also included a waiver for war. The Senate rejected S.J.Res. 24 by a vote of 21 to 79.
Prior to the 112th Congress, the most recent floor consideration of a BBA was in the 105th Congress, when the Senate considered S.J.Res. 1 (introduced by Senator Hatch), which required three-fifths of each chamber to agree to increase the debt limit or to allow outlays to exceed receipts. It included a waiver for war. On March 4, 1997, the Senate failed to achieve the necessary two-thirds vote (66-34).
Prior to the 112th Congress, the last time the House considered a BBA on the floor was during the 104th Congress, when the House considered H.J.Res. 1 (introduced by Representative Joe Barton). The bill required three-fifths of each chamber to agree to increase the debt limit or to allow outlays to exceed receipts, and it included a waiver for war. On January 26, 1995, the House passed H.J.Res. 1 with the necessary two-thirds majority by a vote of 300-132, making it the first proposed BBA to be approved by the House. The Senate considered H.J.Res. 1 on January 27, 1995, and continued consideration through February. On March 2, the Senate failed to achieve the two-thirds vote necessary (65-35). A motion to reconsider the vote was entered, and H.J.Res. 1 was voted on a second time on June 6, 1996, when it again failed to achieve the necessary two-thirds margin (64-35).