Amendment picks up Chamber of Commerce endorsements



WASHINGTON (AP)—Sen. Paul Simon’s balanced budget amendment, scheduled for debate in the coming weeks, picked up the endorsement Wednesday of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The business group had not supported the amendment last year, and Simon called the shift significant.

‘‘It adds to the momentum on the legislation,’‘ the Illinois Democrat said at a new conference.

Simon, the chief sponsor, has long championed a balanced budget amendment. He said his proposal has 45 co-sponsors.

But among opponents are Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, D-Maine, and Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., chairman of the Appropriations Committee.

The amendment needs two-thirds of the votes in each chamber—67 in the Senate. Then, 38 states would have to approve the change.

The amendment would require a three-fifths recorded roll call vote to allow for an unbalanced budget or to increase the federal debt limit.

The amendment also would require at least 51 senators, on a roll call vote, to raise taxes, rather than just a majority of the voting senators.

‘‘Our members and their employees, indeed the American people in general, have a vested interest in seeing the federal government adhere to the same principles of fiscal responsibility that are applicable’‘ to businesses, said Martin Regalia, chamber vice president and chief economist.

‘‘Business, more than any other sector in the American society, has felt the effects of federal fiscal mismanagement and inefficiencies,’‘ he said.

As a result of the growing deficit, people are saving and investing fewer dollars, while income growth and job creation has slowed, Regalia said.

‘‘We have a unique opportunity to enact an amendment this year. Disenchantment with the government’s track record on fiscal issues is high,’‘ he said.

Tax increases in President Clinton’s budget this year helped convince the chamber to support the amendment, Regalia said.

A cosponsor, Sen. Orrin Hatch, said the national debt, now more than $4.4 trillion, came to $17,600 per person in the country.

‘‘We can’t wait any longer,’‘ said Hatch, R-Utah.

The options for the next century, without an amendment, are raising taxes, cutting Social Security benefits or printing more money, Simon said.

Opponents of a balanced budget amendment have said the measure could trigger deep cuts in social programs. They also have criticized it for being a plan that simply requires a balanced budget, leaving choices of tax increases and spending cuts until later.