House votes to require budget-balancing plan

WASHINGTON — The House, voting largely along party lines, approved a bill last week that would require the president to estimate when the federal budget will be balanced.

The legislation, which passed 253-167, was another attempt by the House Republican majority to focus public attention on the budget morass. The Senate, controlled by Democrats, is not expected to take action on it.

“President Obama has a legal and a moral obligation to offer solutions to our fiscal challenges. So far, that hasn’t happened,” said House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis. “Using the numbers from his last budget proposal, the federal budget would not have achieved balance ever.”

Last month, House Republicans focused on Senate Democrats for failing to adopt a budget resolution for nearly four years. The House approved a “No Budget, No Pay” provision that would withhold their paychecks if a budget resolution isn’t in place by April 15.

House Speaker John Boehner called “No Budget, No Pay” a first step in a GOP effort to bring “real fiscal responsibility” to Washington.

House Democrats dismissed the latest Republican proposal as a partisan gimmick and chided them for wasting time rather than focusing on averting “sequestration,” the automatic across-the-board spending cuts that will be implemented next month.

“The majority calls this the ‘Require a PLAN’ bill, but this bill is a stunt, not a solution. Now is the time to take action to avoid the harmful effects of sequestration, not for political posturing,” said Rep. Rush Holt, D-N.J.

The debate came during a week when President Barack Obama missed the deadline for submitting his budget proposal to Congress. He plans to submit it next month.

If the president fails to submit a balanced budget, the House bill would require him to provide a supplementary document estimating the earliest fiscal year in which the budget would be balanced and the steps he proposes to achieve that balance.

Georgia Rep. Paul Broun, a conservative who is running for Senate, was the only Republican to oppose the bill. Only 26 Democrats supported it.

Reps. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., Joe Heck, R-Nev., and Dina Titus, R-Nev., voted for the bill. Rep. Steven Horsford, D-Nev., voted against it.

Contact Stephens Washington Bureau reporter Peter Urban at purban or 202-783-1760.