Congress Takes Up Balanced Budget Bill

CONGRESS is ending a holiday break by resuming efforts to attach an amendment to the Constitution that would require a balanced federal budget.

While the Senate Judiciary Committee was taking up the balanced budget amendment Jan. 17, the House stood ready to pass the first bill the new Republican-led Congress will send to President Clinton - a measure making lawmakers subject to the same laws as private employers.

The Senate panel's approval of the amendment requiring a balanced budget by 2002 would set the stage for floor debate as early as next week on the top item of the Republicans' ``Contract With America'' agenda. The House Judiciary Committee approved the amendment last week.

The measure requires approval by two-thirds majorities in both chambers of Congress and ratification by three-fourths of the states before becoming the 28th Amendment to the Constitution.

The congressional accountability bill the House was expected to approve on Jan. 17 would apply 11 private-sector workplace laws to Congress and grant congressional employees the right to sue over grievances.

Among the laws lawmakers would have to obey are the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, and the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993.

The House passed the bill, 429-0, on the first day of the 104th Congress, Jan. 4. The Senate approved its version, which the House will consider, by a vote of 98-1 on Jan. 11.

The Senate was also to resume debate on another key bill aimed at making Washington more accountable, the unfunded mandates bill.

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