Feb 01 2011

Shelby Introduces Balanced Budget Amendement to the Constitution

U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) today on the floor of the U.S. Senate, introduced legislation to amend the U.S. Constitution to require Congress to balance its budget.  Senator Shelby has introduced similar legislation in every Congress since 1987.

If passed and ratified by three-fourths of the states, this amendment to the Constitution would require that the total amount of money spent by the United States during any fiscal year, except during times of war or when suspended by a vote of three-fifths of both houses of Congress, not exceed the amount of revenue received by the United States during the same fiscal year and not exceed 20 percent of the gross national product of the United States during the previous calendar year.

Excerpts of Shelby’s statement are immediately below in bold, followed by the full text of his prepared remarks:

“A balanced budget amendment to the Constitution is the only certain mechanism that will break the cycle of deficit spending.  We must ensure that the government does not continue to saddle our children and grandchildren with the current generation's debts… 

“Unfortunately, until the federal government is required to spend only the amount of money that it takes in, I fear that we will continue to write checks that the Treasury cannot cash…

“The adoption of an amendment that would require the federal government to do what every American already has to do -- balance its checkbook -- is exactly what this country needs to prove that Washington is serious about accomplishing this feat… 

“A balanced budget amendment is simply a promise to the American people that the government will spend their hard-earned tax dollars responsibly… 

“Opponents of a balanced budget amendment state it is a drastic measure not necessary at this time.  They are correct that it is bold.  It is also necessary…

 The text of Shelby’ speech, as prepared, is as follows: 

Statement by Senator Richard Shelby

February 1, 2011

“Mr. President, I rise today to introduce a piece of legislation that I have introduced in every Congress since 1987— a Constitutional amendment requiring Congress to balance our nation’s budget.  This bill has bipartisan support, and will allow us to finally begin to get our fiscal house in order.

“A balanced budget amendment to the Constitution is the only certain mechanism that will break the cycle of deficit spending.  We must ensure that the government does not continue to saddle our children and grandchildren with the current generation's debts. 

“Essentially, this amendment requires that the United States not spend more money than it receives in revenue, except in times of war or when suspended by a vote of three-fifths of both houses of Congress.

“This bill will provide financial stability to our nation.  Bailouts, stimulus programs, government takeovers of private industry, and costly new programs have consumed and overwhelmed the federal budget. 

“Over the past 30 years, annual deficits have become routine and the federal government has incurred massive debt – nearly $14 trillion and rising quickly.

“As a point of reference, the national debt stood at $909 billion in 1980. 

“In fact, the United States has only had two years in its entire history where it has been debt free—1834 and 1835.  I repeat—only two years free from debt. It seems that the most powerful nation in the world has had its weakness exposed.  Foreign markets cannot continue to stand on our wobbly legs.  The reverberations of our fiscal ineptitude have not only cost Americans jobs, but have weakened how other nations perceive us.  Something must be done.

“Unfortunately, we do not have to look back far in history to see an example of a once great empire sitting on the curb with its hand held out.  Greece’s excessive public spending coupled with a massive borrowing campaign has put its fiscal insolvency woes on the entire European Union.  Greece’s bond rating was downgraded to ‘junk’ by Standard & Poor’s in April.  Bond holders were warned they could recover as little as 30 percent of their initial investment.  The euro weakened and European stock markets plunged.  Will the dollar soon be seen as ‘junk’ to the rest of the world?

“American taxpayers are rightly infuriated by the federal government’s disregard for the same economic principles that govern every household and business budget. 

“Unfortunately, until the federal government is required to spend only the amount of money that it takes in, I fear that we will continue to write checks that the Treasury cannot cash.

“In fiscal year 2010, the total interest on Treasury debt securities was $413 billion.  I believe this money could be better spent on improving education, supporting our law enforcement, or, even better, by returning it to the people who earned it.

“We hear on a daily basis the rhetoric about tough choices, sacrifice, and austerity.  What we need to hear more about is basic mathematics. 

“A balanced budget amendment to the Constitution is the solution to a perpetual problem we do not have the political will to fix otherwise.  It will finally put our nation on a path to paying off our national debt.

“The adoption of an amendment that would require the federal government to do what every American already has to do -- balance its checkbook -- is exactly what this country needs to prove that Washington is serious about accomplishing this feat. 

“A balanced budget amendment is simply a promise to the American people that the government will spend their hard-earned tax dollars responsibly. 

“Opponents of a balanced budget amendment state it is a drastic measure not necessary at this time.  They are correct that it is bold.  It is also necessary.

“I have introduced this legislation every Congress since 1987.  If not now, Mr. President, when?

“Mr. President, I yield the floor.”