Originally created 02/26/97

Hollings' exclusions shot down



WASHINGTON - The Senate torpedoed a plan Tuesday by Sen. Ernest Hollings and other Democrats to exclude Social Security from the provisions of the balanced-budget constitutional amendment.

Senators voted 55-44 to take no action on a proposal sponsored by Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., to prohibit the use of the Social Security Trust Fund to help offset deficit spending in other areas of the budget. The motion to table Mr. Reid's amendment in effect killed it.

Mr. Hollings, D-S.C., and Sen. Max Cleland, DGa., supported the Social Security exclusion. Sens. Paul Coverdell, R-Ga., and Strom Thurmond, RS.C., voted with the Republican majority to table Mr. Reid's proposal.

The Republican-backed constitutional amendment would require that the federal budget be in balance by 2002. The provision could be waived in an emergency, but only with a three-fifths vote of the House and Senate.

Democrats argued Tuesday that without an ex- clusion for Social Security, future presidents and Congresses would raid Social Security surpluses to finance discretionary programs while still maintaining a balanced budget.

"(Republicans) are trying to turn the Social Security Trust Fund into a slush fund," said Mr. Hollings{ , D-S.C}.

Before Tuesday's vote on the Reid amendment, Mr. Hollings and other Democrats publicly signed a petition urging Congress to reject the constitutional amendment unless it contains the Social Security provision.

"Yes, we must balance the budget," said Martha McSteen, president of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, which gathered more than 800,000 signatures in the petition drive. "But we do not want to balance the budget by using Social Security."

But the amendment's Republican backers said it would make no sense to leave Social Security out of budget calculations.

"How can you balance the budget and not count the largest program in the budget?" asked Sen. Phil Gramm, R-Texas.

Jamie Ridge, a spokesman for The Concord Coalition, a bipartisan organization focused on eliminating the deficit, said excluding Social Security from the balanced-budget amendment would hurt the economy early in the next century, when baby boomer retirements turn the current Social Security surplus into a deficit.

"If you balance the budget, you will get a faster growing economy, and we'll be better able to down the road to pay for programs like Social Security and Medicare that are so important to senior citizens."

Mr. Reid's proposal was only one of a series of attempts by Democrats to alter the balanced budget amendment. Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle said Tuesday he doesn't expect the Senate will be ready for a final vote until early next week.

{ In other related developments Tuesday, fresh-

man Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., announced that she

would support the Republican version of the amend-

ment, leaving supporters just one vote shy of locking

up the two-thirds majority needed to pass the meas-

ure. The amendment failed in the Senate two years

ago by one vote.

Meanwhile, the amendment is bogged down in

the House, with many House Republicans siding

with Democrats on the exclusion of Social Security.

Although the measure was approved in the House

two years ago, Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., said it

may not even make it to a floor vote this year.

"I think the only thing you're going to see in the

House for this is a moment of silence," Mr. Frank

said.}