The Balanced Budget Amendment: How Would It Be Enforced?



In this article we evaluate the likely effect of enforcement provisions to congressional proposals for a constitutional balanced budget amendment. We define four general areas of enforcement: legislative, executive, judicial, and public opinion. Each of these areas is in turn evaluated along three criteria: political feasibility (can it be enacted and consistently implemented?), effectiveness (is it likely to result in “balance”?), and implications for redistribution of power across branches. We conclude from this analysis that there are limits associated with all balanced budget enforcement provisions. A reliance on one or no explicit enforcement provision would limit the credibility of any constitutional amendment. Ultimately, the enforcement of the amendment would inevitably rest on the commitment of legislators to producing a balanced budget, and in the absence of such a commitment, any enforcement provision would not likely succeed.