WASHINGTON — IF you missed the Senate drama over the balanced-budget amendment late last month, the rerun is now showing.
The upper house is headed for a showdown March 22 over the line-item veto, a tool long sought by Republicans that would pass some power over the federal purse from Congress to the White House. GOP senators challenged President Clinton on March 21 to produce six Democratic votes to shut down a filibuster threat.
''The ball is in the Democrats' court and in the president's court,'' said Sen. Pete Domenici (R) of New Mexico, a leading proponent of the measure.
As with the balanced-budget amendment, which fell by one vote, the stakes in this battle battle are high. The Republicans hope to avert defeat of a another highly prized plank in their agenda. And Senate majority leader Bob Dole (R) of Kansas, the front-running Republican presidential candidiate, is trying to prove he can deliver that agenda.
Senate Republicans want to allow the president to veto specific sections of tax-and-spending bills rather than itemized provisions. Congress would need a two-thirds vote to override the veto.
Democrats favor a version that would override the veto with a simple majority.