Democrats Gear Up to Defeat Measure on Balanced Budget

Article excerpt

House leaders scheduled a Feb. 26 vote on the balanced-budget amendment amid signs that Democrats in both houses are mobilizing to defeat the measure on the grounds that it threatens Social Security.

"This is the first big test of bipartisanship of the 105th Congress," said House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, Texas Republican, acknowledging that GOP leaders are short of the 290 votes needed to pass the constitutional measure in the House.

Critical votes must be supplied by the House's new crop of 32 Democratic freshmen, many of whom sympathize with President Clinton in opposing the amendment. For the first time, it appeared yesterday that House Democrats will try to defeat the popular measure using a Social Security strategy that worked for Senate Democrats last year.

Democrats charge that the balanced-budget requirement will force Congress to consider cutting Social Security as well as continue using Social Security's sizable surpluses to show balance.

The surpluses - $70 billion a year and growing - have helped to mask the size of the government's deficit problem. Democrats in both houses have been readying an alternative amendment that purports to protect Social Security. …