WASHINGTON -- The defeat of the balanced budget amendment in the House last week sent a clear signal to financial markets that it is business as usual in Congress, with fiscal profligacy still the comfortable order of the day.

Despite coming within a few votes of the necessary two-thirds majority, the measure could not muster the victory promised by its co-author in the House, Rep. Charles Stenholm, D-Tex. In the last-minute flurry of intense lobbying that preceded the vote, a handful of Democratic supporters defected and voted no.

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