April 10, 2000

Constitutional Amendment Would Threaten Future Deficits And Pose Risks to Medicare, While Protecting Special Interest Tax Breaks
by Robert Greenstein

Related analyses:

The House of Representatives is expected to vote April 11 on an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to require a two-thirds vote by the House and Senate for any bill that would raise federal revenues (H.J. Res. 94). This amendment would have far-reaching effects.

Votes for Recent Legislation that Raised Taxes

Between 1982 and 1993, five pieces of legislation that raised significant revenue were enacted. Presidents Reagan signed the first three of these measures, while President Bush and President Clinton each signed one. All five failed to secure a two-thirds vote on the House floor.

In passing the Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1982, a measure crafted in substantial part by Senator Bob Dole, the House vote was 226-207. When the House considered its version of the 1983 Social Security rescue plan the following year, the vote was 282-148. The vote for the 1987 budget reconciliation bill, a product of bipartisan negotiations that contained both spending cuts and revenue increases, was 237-181, while the 1990 budget agreement passed by only 228 to 220. The 1993 budget agreement passed by a slender 218-216 vote.

During this period, only one measure that raised revenue secured a two-thirds vote, the 1989 reconciliation bill. The 1989 bill was a minor measure. It did relatively little to reduce the deficit and contained only very small revenue increases. The revenue increases in all five of the pieces of legislation that failed to secure a two-thirds vote exceeded the level of revenue increases in the 1989 bill.

These issues are analyzed in more detail in a separate Center analysis, "The Constitutional Amendment to Require a Two-thirds Supermajority to Raise Taxes," which is posted to /archiveSite/4-12-99tax3.htm


End Notes:

1. See Congressional Budget Office, The Long-Term Budget Outlook: An Update, December 1999.

2. Members of the National Academy of Social Insurance Study Panel on Medicare Financing, The Financing Needs of a Restructured Medicare Program, September, 1999.