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Budget Amendment Loses GOP Vote

<i> Associated Press</i>

Sen. Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), a key swing vote, announced his opposition to the balanced-budget amendment Thursday, leaving Republicans struggling for the support needed to pass a high-profile piece of their legislative agenda.

Johnson voted for an identical measure to amend the Constitution two years ago when he was in the House preparing for his 1996 Senate candidacy. But at a news conference Thursday in South Dakota, he cited a “new, disturbing analysis” that he said raised concerns about the potential impact on Social Security benefits.

Johnson said he would vote for an amendment that made changes to shelter Social Security. But Republican aides said no changes were being contemplated.

A two-thirds majority in each house is required for passage of a constitutional amendment. Johnson’s decision likely left 33 Democratic senators in opposition, one shy of the number needed to defeat it. The publicly uncommitted senators are Democrats Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Robert Torricelli of New Jersey.

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