The Administration strongly opposes a constitutional amendment requiring a
two-thirds supermajority vote to raise revenues.
The Nation's 200 year-old constitutional system, with its strong emphasis on
majority rule, should not be altered or amended for symbolic or political
purposes. James Madison, in The Federalist Papers (No. 58) argued
against requiring supermajorities for legislative business, stating "the
fundamental principle of free government would be reversed. It would be no
longer the majority that would rule: the power would be transferred to the
The language of H.J.Res. 62, as reported, is ambiguous -- but is problematic no
matter how it is interpreted. If the proposed amendment applies to all
"chang[es in] the internal revenue laws," it would take a two-thirds majority
to cut taxes as well as increase taxes. Alternatively, if the
amendment is read to apply only to "increase[s]... by more than a de minimis
amount," we would have the absurd result that special interest tax loopholes
could be enacted by a simple majority, but a two-thirds super-majority
would be required to close loopholes.
Another harmful effect of H.J.Res. 62 would be permitting a small minority of
legislators in either House to block revenue-raising measures needed to prepare
for potential military conflicts or to respond to other national emergencies.
Enforcement of the proposed amendment would also raise serious concerns. If
the proposed amendment is read to authorize judicial enforcement, courts could
be drawn into fundamental policy and political disputes better resolved by the
elected branches of government (e.g., determining whether a tax increase is "de
minimis" or in distinguishing between a fee and a tax). Alternatively, if
judicial enforcement is unavailable, those who would seek to enforce the
amendment would be left without a remedy, and the public's confidence in the
Constitution would be diminished.