One of the comments Democrats have been making ad nauseum about GOP efforts to pass a Balanced Budget Amendment is that even if the states were to ratify it, it would take years to actually do so. I was curious, and decided to dive into the numbers. Surprisingly, if the BBA could get out of Congress, there’s an excellent chance that it could be ratified within 4 years.
As has been noted here often, America is basically a conservative, center-right country. This is reflected in the state legislatures, as since 2000, the GOP has made very significant gains at the state level.
The amendment process is quite simple. After passage by a two thirds vote of both Houses of Congress, three quarters (38) of the states must ratify the amendment. Because in the past it has often taken a very long time for this to occur, Congress has often stipulated a time period ( usually 7 years) by which ratification must occur, or the amendment is no longer valid.
As we have 50 states ( despite what our current president thinks) passage thus requires 38 states to ratify the amendment.
Currently there are 26 states in which Republicans control BOTH states houses. Nebraska has the lone unicameral state legislature, which is solidly Republican. So we start with 27 votes to amend. (Note: I am no expert in state politics nationwide, but a quick glance at the party totals in each state suggests no danger of loss of control in the near future.)
There are 8 states with split party control:
Alaska, Colorado, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, NY, Oregon, Virginia.
Recent political trends ( the 2010 election, as well as the 2012 and 2014 electoral cycles) suggest that except for NY, the other 7 states might well ratify the amendment.
So now we have 27 + 7, or 34 states that could ratify.
We need to find an additional 4 states from the list of 15 that are controlled by the Democrats:
Arkansas,California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Mass, Nevada, NJ, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia.
First, let’s eliminate the NCIH ( no chance in hell) states:
California, CT, Illinois, Maryland, Mass, NJ
That means we need at least 4 more states ( in case not all of the split control states concur)
Here are those I feel could indeed ratify:
Arkansas, Nevada, New Mexico, Vermont, West Virginia
That’s FIVE (count ’em) FIVE!!!!
And because the GOP continues to do well at the local and state levels, and the trend for for the GOP in the House and Senate looks very promising in 2012 and 2014. ( if you think that 2012 looks BAD for the Dems in the Senate, 2014, is even worse), the states could actually ratify the BBA within a 3-4 year period.
After the 2014 elections, we could find ourselves with a Republican president, GOP control of the House, a filibuster proof Republican majority in the Senate, AND a ratified Balance Budget Amendment.
We could be on the path to fiscal stability and a limited government far sooner than we think.