Constitutional Amendment Would Require Supermajority For Tax Hikes

Provided by CCH

The House on June 12 plans to vote on an amendment to the Constitution that would require a supermajority in Congress to change tax laws or significantly increase government spending. The Tax Limitation Constitutional Amendment (HJRes 96) was introduced by Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, on June 6. It would require a two-thirds vote by present and voting members in each chamber to pass any bill changing internal revenue laws or increasing spending beyond a certain set amount, according to a House Judiciary Committee document. Congress would determine the amount in legislation enacting the amendment after its passage.

The supermajority requirement could be waived if the U.S. declared war. It also could be waived during a military conflict causing an imminent, serious national security threat as determined by a joint resolution from the House and Senate.

HJRes 96 would force Congress to consider strategies other than tax hikes to solve budget problems, according to Sessions' office. It would also restrict the growth of government programs and discipline Congress to spend less.

Supermajority voting is already required of Congress in 10 instances, said Sessions' office, such as an impeachment conviction by the Senate. In addition, 14 states require a supermajority vote to pass tax hikes; personal income in tax-limitation states grew 70% during the 1990s while personal income in states without such amendments grew at 65%.

A two-thirds vote is required in both the House and Senate to pass a constitutional amendment. The amendment must then be passed by three-quarters of all state legislatures to become law.

Congress votes on similar amendments every year, said a congressional staffer who asked to remain anonymous. According to Sessions' office, HJRes 96 is identical to a constitutional amendment Sessions introduced in 2001, HJRes 41, which failed on April 25, 2001, by a vote of 232-189 (TAXDAY, 2002/04/26, C.4). If passed on June 12, HJRes 96 faces a murky future in the Senate, which has not acted on several tax reduction bills sent to it from the House.

The amendment will probably not get enough votes to pass but will give members of Congress a chance to express support for the measure, said Sessions' spokesman Adrian Plesha. He predicted the amendment would get between 230 and 240 votes and that 90% of Republicans would vote for it while 90% of Democrats would not; it takes 290 votes to pass. Republicans will offer the amendment every year they have a majority of members in the House, he added.

Marriage Penalty Vote Set

The House also announced it will vote June 14 on HR 4019, legislation that would make permanent the marriage penalty repeal in the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 (EGTRRA) (P.L. 107-16). The bill is one of several House bills currently being considered that would make portions of EGTRRA permanent.

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