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:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care


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