Congress got it right.

By a vote of 261-165 on Friday afternoon, the House of Representatives fell 23 votes short of the two-thirds majority required for passage of a proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would have required the federal government to balance its budget.

It was a bad idea and, as the vote demonstrated, enough House members knew it was a bad idea to derail the plan.

Even Paul Ryan, tea party hero and Republican chairman of the House Budget Committee, voted no. Ryan has led the charge for balanced budgets and debt reduction in the current Congress but feared the proposed constitutional amendment would lead to tax increases and bigger government.

Ryan was one of just four Republicans who voted against the proposal, sad to say, but his opposition was a powerful example of common sense and political courage. The vote was an exercise in political showmanship, conjured up by members of Congress who like to talk about balancing the budget but don’t have the gumption to actually do it.

The hard-won agreement that finally ended last summer’s showdown over raising the government’s borrowing limit led to the congressonal waste of time that ended with Friday’s vote. In addition to creating the 12-member “supercommittee” that’s been trying to conjure up $1.5 trillion worth of deficit reduction, the debt-ceiling deal included a guarantee that Congress would vote on a balanced budget amendment.

We say it was a waste of time because almost no one seriously thought the amendment could win a two-thirds majority in the House — and even if it had, it needed a two-thirds majority in the Senate. And if got through the Senate and the president signed it, then it had to win approval of 38 Legislatures.

Like we said, the whole deal was a show, not serious legislating.

Still, it’s probably a good thing that House members got to huff and puff about a constitutional amendment that would have forced them to do the work they clearly don’t have much stomach for; now they can turn their attention to the real work of balancing the budget.

Ryan has a plan to do just that. It’s a serious if controversial plan that has been all but ignored in the furor over debt ceilings, near-shutdowns of the government and supercommitte deliberations.

This would be a good time for our elected representatives to dust off Ryan’s budget and start doing what what we’re paying them to do.