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Ryan Avoids Contradiction By Voting Against Balanced Budget Amendment

The House of Representatives failed to pass a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution today. The final vote was 261-165, 29 short of the 2/3 required for passage of a Constitutional amendment.

The debt limit deal included a provision that mandated a vote in each chamber of Congress by the end of the year on a balanced budget amendment. The vote in the Senate should happen in December. The House vote was actually closer to passage than it should have been because the Blue Dog caucus decided to support it; all in all, 25 Democrats voted in favor, most of them the usual suspects (WTF Jay Inslee?). But support was not completely unanimous on the Republican side. Four Republicans voted no, including Justin Amash and Louie Gohmert for some reason (it didn’t mandate hunting of immigrants or something). David Dreier, a committee chair who will have a tough time staying in Congress because of redistricting, also voted against it. And so did a guy named Paul Ryan.

Why would the Chair of the House Budget Committee, who has railed for years against wasteful spending and the need for budget discipline, vote against a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution? Because it would have made his budget unconstitutional. See, the Ryan budget privatizes Medicare, block grants Medicaid and causes a host of untold suffering, but it does not, in fact, balance the budget. In fact, it didn’t balance the budget for 30 years.

Ryan had the distinction of being one of the only internally consistent Republicans in the House today. Because almost every member of the Republican caucus voted for the Ryan budget. And almost all of them voted for the balanced budget amendment today. The only others with the ability to claim consistency are the above-named members, and Ron Paul, Denny Rehberg, Walter Jones and David McKinley, who voted against the Ryan budget. Paul actually didn’t vote today; he is out on the Presidential campaign trail.

Nothing from Ryan so far on this vote, but I think we can sum it up as an avoidance of embarrassment.

When push came to shove today, Paul Ryan admitted that he doesn’t actually believe in pretty much everything he spouts. He believes in destroying the social safety net, sure, but not so the budget will be balanced.

UPDATE: Here’s Ryan’s alibi:

“I’m concerned that this version will lead to a much bigger government fueled by more taxes.” said Paul Ryan in a statement to the Washington Examiner, “Spending is the problem, yet this version of the Balanced Budget Amendment makes it more likely taxes will be raised, government will grow, and economic freedom will be diminished. Without a limit on government spending, I cannot support this Amendment.”

It’s the lack of a cap that troubled him, then. Didn’t trouble any of the 236 other Republicans who voted for it. I assume the “this makes my cherished budget unconstitutional” part played a role.

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David Dayen

David Dayen