Off Balance

In a decision that could kill the balanced budget constitutional amendment, freshman Sen. Robert Torricelli, D- N.J., this afternoon announced he will oppose the main version of the amendment.

Torricelli, whose vote was considered the deciding one by both Republican and Democratic vote counters, announced his decision after the Senate on a 63-37 vote rejected his amendment to allow the creation of a capital budget and make it easier to waive the amendment's requirements in time of economic or national security emergencies.

"The balanced budget amendment has good aspects," Torricelli told reporters. "It simply is not good enough."

Torricelli's decision left Senate Republican leaders scurrying to try to find another Democrat who might be willing to change his or her vote; there are currently 66 senators who have indicated they will support the GOP-sponsored amendment, one short of the needed two-thirds majority. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., said Tuesday he might have a vote in reserve if needed. "We'll have to keep working," Senate Judiciary Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said after learning of Torricelli's decision. He said he has two senators in mind whom he might try to convince to change their votes.

Pressure on Torricelli had mounted since Tuesday, when Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., announced she would vote for the version of the amendment proposed by Hatch.

GOP leaders continually cited Torricelli's previous support for the balanced budget amendment and his comments throughout his recent campaign that he supported the constitutional amendment. As a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he voted to send the constitutional amendment to the floor, but said that he wanted changes to be made. And in a floor speech today on his amendment, Torricelli said the Hatch version should be changed to make it easier to waive in times of war or economic recession.

"I have absolutely no regrets for having voted for a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution on three different occasions," Torricelli told reporters.

The future of the balanced budget amendment in the House remained unclear. House Majority Leader Armey said Tuesday that he would not guarantee that it would be brought to the floor if the Senate defeats it. Republican leaders delayed House consideration of the amendment because it was considered in more trouble in the House than in the Senate and they hoped Senate passage would provide them with the momentum needed for House approval.

Earlier, sources said negotiations between House Republican leaders and a group of GOP members trying to protect Social Security under a balanced budget amendment were making some progress. The group -- which includes Reps. Mark Neumann, R- Wis., Mark Souder, R-Ind., and Jon Fox, R-Pa. -- has been trying to hammer out language in discussions with Rep. Christopher Cox, R-Calif., on either a legislative solution or additional wording in the constitutional amendment.

The group wants any alternative to have more teeth than a simple "Sense of the Congress" resolution, and discussions have revolved around a Neumann plan to prevent Social Security funds from being used in other parts of the budget.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.