SENATE DEMOCRATS called on Republicans Friday to outline a plan
for eliminating deficits before the final vote on a balanced-budget
amendment to the Constitution.
With Senate debate set to begin Monday, Republican leader Bob
Dole forecast a "long struggle" to assemble the two-thirds majority
needed for approval of the amendment. "I hope we can do it," he
said. "It's going to be very difficult."
Should the amendment pass the Senate, it then must be ratified
by the legislatures in 38 states.
A new nationwide survey of legislative leaders indicates that
the proposal may fall short of the required three-quarters margin.
The Associated Press interviewed nearly 300 legislators across
the nation Thursday and Friday, and found most ready to ratify the
proposal. By the legislators' assessments, the measure appears
likely to be ratified in 32 states, lose in two and faces uncertain
prospects in the remaining 16.
The survey found the amendment likely to pass in Missouri. Its
prospects in Illinois were uncertain, the AP said.
The measure cleared the House on Thursday night on a vote of
The amendment lies at the core of an effort by the new
Republican majority in Congress to shrink government and cut
spending. Support is nearly unanimous among Senate Republicans, but
Democrats are divided over a measure that some say would lead to
devastating cuts in federal programs. The GOP holds a 53-47
majority in the Senate.
Dole received a letter from 42 Democratic senators Friday
offering to join in a bipartisan effort to identify the actions
that would be needed to erase deficits over the seven-year period
specified in the amendment.
"All of us, whether we favor or oppose the constitutional
balanced-budget amendment, support the idea that Americans have a
right to know," said the letter summarized for reporters by
Democratic Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota and others.
The presence of more than 40 signatures indicated Democrats are
prepared to wage a strong effort for their "right to know"
proposal. The number means opponents could filibuster against the
bill and kill it.
House Democrats unsuccessfully tried to force a vote on the
proposal, hoping it would force Republicans to lay out a series of
deep cuts in popular programs such as Medicare, education and
health that would come back to haunt them at the polls.
President Bill Clinton echoed the concern. "The people need
more information on this before the legislators vote on it,"
Clinton said. "If it's going to be sent out there, there ought to
be a cover sheet showing how it will be done."
Dole reacted mildly at a news conference, saying he had
referred the matter to Budget Committee Chairman Pete Domenici,
In the House Friday, Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., said he
would schedule a vote for April 15, 1996 - income tax filing day -
on a separate amendment to require a three-fifths majority in both
houses of Congress for tax increases.
Should the effort fail, he said, "We will work . . . to replace
pro-tax members with pro-taxpayer members."
There is a seven-year time limit for ratification. At least one
state, Idaho, would need at least two years for passage because all
such amendments require a vote of the people. Other states appear
likely to pass the measure within days of any Senate approval. …