Democrat Bill Seeks to Eclipse Gop Move Amendment Protects Social Security Funds

Article excerpt

Senate Democrats introduced a balanced budget amendment Tuesday that, unlike the Republican-backed version that will dominate the debate, removes the Social Security trust fund from budget calculations.

The six Senate Democrats argued that the absence of a Social Security "protection" clause would allow lawmakers to "raid" the fund to balance the budget.

"This amendment will require the fiscal discipline that is needed in this country, but it will not misuse Social Security trust funds to pretend the budget is in balance when it is not," said Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D. The Democratic bill has no chance of being passed, but it could deprive the GOP bill of the two-thirds majority needed for a constitutional amendment. Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah, chairman of the Judiciary Committee and a leading proponent of the GOP version, said Monday that he had 68 votes, one more than needed. That includes all 55 Republicans, nine Democrats who voted for the balanced budget amendment last year and four freshman Democrats who pledged support for the amendment during their campaigns. The focus will be on whether the freshmen - Max Cleland of Georgia, Tim Johnson of South Dakota, Mary Landrieu of Lousiana and Robert Torricelli of New Jersey - support the Republican or Democratic versions. The Social Security trust fund, which currently brings in more money every year than goes out, is now included in general budget calculations, and both the Clinton administration and Republican plans to balance the budget by 2002 rely on trust fund money as a source of revenue. "Neither the Republicans nor I and the Congress could produce a balanced budget tomorrow that could pass" if the trust funds were not counted, President Bill Clinton said Tuesday at a news conference. But Clinton opposes an amendment that would rely on Social Security revenues to balance the budget. …

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