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HOW CONGRESS VOTED

Votes of area members of Congress on key issues last week:

SENATE FALLS SHORT IN BID TO PASS BALANCED-BUDGET AMENDMENT: Ending a chapter in one of the most contentious ongoing fights in U.S. politics, the Senate on Tuesday rejected a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution, 63-37, four votes shy of the two-thirds majority required to approve it. (For more on amendment, see Diary of the Week, 8A)

The amendment, which was sponsored by Paul Simon, D-Ill., and Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, would have required the federal government to balance its books each year beginning in 2001, except if three-fifths of the House and Senate voted to lift the requirement. Passage seems assured in the House, which is likely to vote on the proposal later this month. But that vote will be largely moot, because Senate leaders say they will not take up the issue again this year.

The party breakdown of the Senate vote illustrates the partisan pressure that has imbued balanced-budget amendment debates since the 1980s. Opponents of the amendment, all but three of whom were Democrats, siphoned votes away by putting forward a milder version that also failed but let lawmakers go on record as favoring a balanced budget. The alternative amendment, offered by Harry Reid, D-Nev., had the attraction of protecting Social Security, enabling members to claim that by voting for it and against the Simon-Hatch measure that they were defending that politically sacrosanct program from possible cuts.

Supporters of the Simon amendment said it would provide the "harsh medicine" needed to pressure Congress into making difficult decisions to cut spending.

Reid, D-Nev., who opposed the Simon amendment, resorted to warnings of cataclysmic doom, saying that under that amendment Social Security would be targeted for "devastating" cuts when Congress confronted the need to avoid deficit spending. "If the Simon amendment passes, it will be the end of Social Security," he said.

Voting for a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution: Graham (D), Mack (R).

HOUSE CHOOSES NOT TO MARK IMMIGRANT SCHOOLCHILDREN: The House geared up to debate the elementary and secondary education bill on Thursday but ended up arguing over illegal immigration.

By a 78-329 vote, the House defeated an amendment that would have required school districts that receive federal funds for disadvantaged children to identify students and parents who had illegally immigrated to the United States.

Supporters said their goal was to protect taxpayers' interests.

But some lawmakers said the amendment would slow the process by which Congress allocates federal money. Others called the bill mean-spirited.

Voting to require schools to identify illegal immigrants: Fowler (R), Goss (R), McCollum (R), Mica (R), Miller (R), Stearns (R).

Voting against: Bacchus (D), Brown (D), Gibbons (D), Hutto (D), Johnston (D), Meek (D), Peterson (D), Thurman (D), Bilirakis (R), Canady (R), Lewis (R), Ros-Lehtinen (R), Young (R).

HOUSE POSTPONES POST OFFICE INVESTIGATION: For the third time in less than two years, the House on Thursday rejected Republican attempts to further the ongoing investigation of alleged misconduct at the House Post Office and instead backed a Democratic-sponsored resolution that would postpone congressional inquiry.

In a virtual party-line vote of 241-184, the House adopted a resolution offered by Majority Leader Richard A. Gephardt, D-Mo., supporting the decision of the ethics committee to postpone any investigation until the Justice Department completes its own probe.

Voting to defer investigation of alleged misconduct at the post office: Bacchus (D), Brown (D), Gibbons (D), Hutto (D), Johnston (D), Meek (D), Peterson (D), Thurman (D).

Voting against: Bilirakis (R), Canady (R), Fowler (R), Goss (R), Lewis (R), McCollum (R), Mica (R), Miller (R), Ros-Lehtinen (R), Stearns (R), Young (R).

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