WASHINGTON — Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada was the lone Republican to support a balanced budget amendment offered by Democrats.
The Senate on Wednesday voted down two separate measures aimed at amending the U.S. Constitution to require a balanced budget. A Republican proposal was defeated 47-53 with no Democrats in support. An alternative offered by Democrats fell, 21-79, with Heller crossing party lines.
"I have heard some of my colleagues claim that the Balanced Budget Amendment is ‘reckless,’ a ‘waste of time’ and ‘of no value.’ I couldn’t disagree more. A Balanced Budget Amendment would ensure that Congress treats taxpayers’ dollars responsibly and place our nation on a path to greater prosperity," Heller said, in a statement after the votes.
The Senate scheduled the votes to fulfill a commitment made last summer over raising the government’s debt limit. The House held its vote last month, falling 23 votes short of the two-thirds majority needed.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., voted Wednesday against both versions of the balanced budget amendment.
"History has shown that Congress can balance the budget without tampering with our Constitution," Reid said in a statement after the vote. "We did it in the 1990s, and we can do it again. A Balanced Budget Amendment would not really balance the budget. Republicans just are using it as an excuse to avoid taking responsibility for the hard choices we have to make as legislators."
Reid offered a particularly harsh criticism of the Republican alternative, calling it a "political gimmick" that would threaten Social Security and lock in constitutional protections for "every single special-interest tax loophole."
The Republican plan would require a two-thirds majority of both chambers to raise taxes, three-fifths to raise the national debt, and stated that spending for any budget year could not exceed 18 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product.