by Rob Roper
On Wednesday, November 14th, the debt of the United States reached $15 trillion. This was after Congress raised the debt ceiling just last August to $15.2 trillion. At the pace our government is borrowing and spending money, the debt ceiling will have to be raised again (wasn’t it so much fun last time?!) sometime next summer in 2012.
On Friday, November 18th, the U.S. House of Representatives had an opportunity to bring some measure of sanity to this financial hemorrhaging with a vote on a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. The roll call vote on the proposal was 261 in favor to 165 opposed, but the measure failed to get the 284 votes necessary for the constitutionally required two-thirds majority to pass.
It was largely a party-line vote, with just twenty-five Democrats voting with 236 Republicans is support. Vermont’s lone congressman, Peter Welch, was not one of the twenty-five. Welch voted “Nay.”
If the house and then the senate had actually passed the amendment, a balanced budget would still not be the law of the land. According to Article 5 of the Constitution, the matter would then have to be taken up by the individual states and passed by at least three quarters of them. So, essentially, what Welch and his fellow Democrats (along with four Republicans) did was deny folks in the states an opportunity to debate and vote on this proposal. What are they afraid of?
Welch has also garnered headlines lately for speaking on behalf of a group of congressmen urging the budget Supercommittee to “Go Big” in finding ways to reduce the nation’s debt. It looks, however, as if his efforts in that regard have not born any fruit either. Apparently it’s a lot easier to tell other people to be bold than to actually vote that way yourself.