Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Senate Panel Delays Vote on Budget Amendment

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Senate Panel Delays Vote on Budget Amendment

Article excerpt

A Senate panel put off a key vote on a constitutional amendment to balance the budget Tuesday as Democrats pushed for changes and pressed Republicans to explain the measure's economic consequences.

The Senate Judiciary Committee's chairman, Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah, agreed to postpone a vote for a week to give Democrats time to prepare amendments, including language that Social Security funds not be used to reduce federal deficits.

The balanced budget amendment, the centerpiece of the Republicans' "Contract with America," has also run into early dissent in the House, where some moderate Republicans object to a provision requiring a three-fifths majority to raise taxes.

On Monday, House Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Texas, revealed he was delaying for at least a week the opening of floor debate on the amendment. Instead, the House will first take up a bill to bar the federal government in most cases from imposing new programs on states and local jurisdictions unless it pays for the programs.

The proposed constitutional amendment, which would have to be passed by a two-thirds vote in both chambers and then ratified by three-fourths of the states, calls for balancing the federal budget by 2002.

The national debt is fast approaching $4.8 trillion, Hatch said, and Congress needs the discipline of a constitutional amendment. "There is absolutely not the slightest discipline in these bodies with regards to spending," he said.

While many Democrats say they support the amendment, the new minority continues to hammer away on Republican reluctance to specify what programs would have to be cut.

House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt, D-Mo., and Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., are introducing bills requiring Congress to give details.

"We need to see some kind of a game plan on how this balanced budget amendment is going to be achieved in terms of dollars and cents," said Sen. …

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