Updated 8-21-97

full story Sealing The Deal

The Spending Side

The Tax Side


The Balanced Budget Amendment


Key Terms

Appendix: Clinton's Feb. 6 Budget

Related Stories

The Budget Deal: A Conspiracy Of Celebration Yep, Congress and Clinton finally balanced the budget. But in their haste to hand out goodies, they missed a chance to defuse some time bombs. By Nancy Gibbs/TIME, 8/11/97

The Tax Bill: Money In Motion Why some of the "wealthy" have nothing to gain. By Daniel Kadlec/TIME, 8/11/97.

Related Sites

The Office Of Management and Budget

The Congressional Budget Office Gopher

The National Debt Clock Counterpoint

Did Congress Approve Tax Measures Favoring The Well-Off? Iris J. Lav, associate director of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities believes so, while J.D. Foster, executive director and chief economist for the Tax Foundation says the big winners are middle-class families.

Does The Budget Deal Address The Long-Term Entitlement Spending Crisis? -- John Tottie, Senior Economist with Citizens for a Sound Economy says the deal only worsens entitlement spending, while Brookings Institution Visiting Fellow Joseph White argues policymakers can't plan now for problems that are still 30 years off.

Is A Balanced Budget Amendment A Good Idea? Heritage Foundation senior fellow Daniel Mitchell takes on Robert Greenstein, executive director of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.



Balancing The Budget

The Balanced Budget Amendment

The balanced budget amendment failed in the Senate on March 4, 1997, by one vote -- the same margin of failure as during the 104th Congress. Though Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) has predicted it may come up for another vote in this Congress, for the time being the idea is dead. There is no vote scheduled in the House, which easily passed the amendement in the 104th Congress.

A GOP Favorite The proposed balanced budget constitutional amendment is related to but distinct from the debate over President Clinton's budget proposal. The amendment is favored by most Republicans and opposed by most Democrats, including the president. Requiring a two-thirds vote from Congress, enough Democrats favored the proposal to give it a fighting shot at passage in the 105th Congress. If approved by Congress, a balanced budget amendment wouldn't require presidential signature but would need to be approved by three-fourths of the states. lott

The issue fostered some of the sharpest exchanges between Washington leaders of the new year. Following Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin's testimony before a Senate panel, Sen. Lott upbraided Rubin for being "hysterical," adding, "How they handle this issue will affect our ability to work on other issues."

The premise of the balanced budget amendment is simple. By law, the federal government would be required not to spend more than it receives in revenues. The requirement could be waived, however, by a three-fifths vote of Congress. Current versions of the amendment also require a three-fifths majority to raise taxes.

Clinton and many Democrats contend the amendment would put the federal government in a fiscal straightjacket that could have disastrous effects during recessions , when revenues could fall sharply. One effect, they suggest, could be the impoundment of Social Security checks. They also object to requiring a super-majority to raise taxes.

Republicans say those fears are overblown and argue that having piled up a trillion-dollar debt, lawmakers' profligacy can only be restrained by an amendment. They point out most states are required to balance their budgets. Some Democrats, sympathetic to the balanced budget, have suggested taking Social Security off budget to reduce that possibility, an idea most Republicans oppose.


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