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Constitutional Convention for a Balanced Budget Amendment

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Mr. BROOKS.

America is the greatest Nation in the history of the world. We enjoy a standard of living that is envied by most. We have a national defense unmatched in history. We are a beacon of freedom for all.

Have you ever thought about why America is the world's leader? Are we just lucky. No. I would submit to you that there are substantive reasons for our greatness.

We are blessed today because of the sacrifices of others before us, others who gave of themselves to ensure a better future for their children and succeeding generations. History shows us that great nations rise and great nations fall, but they rarely fall from without without first suffering weakness from within.

Today, the greatest threat to America is not a foreign power. No. America's greatest threat is Washington's irresponsible, dangerous, and insatiable spending habits. Admiral Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified recently before the House Armed Services Committee that America's greatest national security threat is our own unsustainable and growing debt burden. It wasn't al Qaeda. It wasn't North Korea. It wasn't the Taliban. It wasn't any other foe across the globe. It was our unsustainable national debt. And he is right.

For years, Washington has been on a spending binge of epic proportions. Why do Washington's politicians risk America's future? Because they have put their own self-interests above America's interests. They spend money we don't have to get votes for the next election. They don't care about who must pay the bill. They don't care about America's future generations. They don't care whether their spending binges risk America's future.

Some say we don't need a balanced budget constitutional amendment to force Washington to spend within our means. They are 100 percent dead wrong. Most recently, the President stated: We don't need a constitutional amendment to do our jobs. The Constitution already tells us to do our jobs--and to make sure that the government is living within its means and making responsible choices.

And he went on: We don't need more studies. We don't need a balanced budget amendment. We simply need to make these tough choices and be willing to take on our bases.

But history has established that we need, in the United States Congress, a balanced budget constitutional amendment because it will provide the backbone that Congress has lacked for so long. History proves those naysayers are wrong. Three years of trillion-dollar-plus deficits proved them wrong. Projected trillion-dollar deficits into the future proved them wrong.

America must rise up and force Washington to live within our means before it is too late. America must give Washington the backbone it lacks. That backbone is a balanced budget constitutional amendment forcing Washington to do the right thing.

If this Congress will not pass an effective balanced budget constitutional amendment, then the States must do it for us. The Lone Star State of Texas recently passed a resolution calling for a constitutional convention for a balanced budget constitutional amendment if Congress fails to act. The great State of Alabama has joined Texas.

I will next read into the Record of the United States House of Representatives Alabama's Senate Joint Resolution 100 from Alabama's 2011 regular session just passed by the Alabama State Legislature. This is Act No. 2011-400. The principal sponsor is Senator Arthur Orr. Cosponsors from the State of Alabama are Senator Scofield, Senator Sanford, Senator Holtzclaw, Senator Williams, Senator McGill, and Senator Beason.

"Enrolled, SJR100, urging Congress to propose a Federal balanced budget amendment.

"Whereas, the reluctance of the Federal Government to incur debt and other obligations was established early in American history, with deficits occurring only in relation to extraordinary circumstances such as war; yet for much of the 20th century and into the 21st, the United States has operated on a budget deficit, including the 2010 budget year, which surpassed an astounding $1.3 trillion, an annual deficit that exceeded the entire gross State product of many of the States; and

"Whereas, an exception to this pattern was at the turn of the 21st century; in FY 2001, America enjoyed $128 billion budget surplus; and

"Whereas, since FY 2001, America has been burdened with 10 consecutive years of deficits, to wit:

"FY 2002, $158 billion deficit; FY 2003, $377 billion deficit; FY 2004, $413 billion deficit; FY 2005 $318 billion deficit; FY 2006 $248 billion deficit; FY 2007, $161 billion deficit; FY 2008, $459 billion deficit; FY 2009 $1.4 trillion deficit; FY 2010, $1.3 trillion deficit; FY 2011, $1.5 trillion deficit (estimated); and

"Whereas, as of January 2011, America's accumulated national debt exceeded $12 trillion now estimated at over $13 trillion; and

"Whereas, the Congressional Budget Office projects that, if current trends continue under the White House's proposed budget, each of the next 10 years has a projected deficit exceeding $600 billion; and

"Whereas, the budget deficits of the United States of America are unsustainable and constitute a substantial threat to the solvency of the Federal Government as evidenced by the comments of Standard and Poor's on April 18, 2011, regarding the longer term credit outlook for the United States; and

"Whereas, Congress has been unwilling or unable to address the persistent problem of overspending and has recently increased the statutory limit on the public debt and enacted a variety of legislation that will ultimately cause the Federal Government to incur additional debt; and

"Whereas, the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform in its report 'The Moment of Truth' includes recommendations to reduce the Federal deficit that have not been considered by the United States Congress; and

"Whereas, the consequences of current spending policies are far-reaching; United States indebtedness to governments of foreign nations continues to rise; costly Federal programs that are essentially unfunded or underfunded; mandates to States threaten the ability of State and local governments to continue to balance their budgets; moreover, future generations of Americans inevitably face increased taxation and a weakened economy as a direct result of the bloated debt; and

"Whereas, many States have previously requested that Congress propose a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget, but Congress has proven to be unresponsive; anticipating a situation in which Congress at times could fail to act, the drafters of the United States Constitution had the foresight to adopt the language in Article V that establishes that on application of the legislatures of two-thirds of the several States, Congress shall call a convention for proposing amendments; and

"Whereas, in prior years, the Alabama Legislature has called on Congress to pass a balanced budget constitutional amendment, many other States have done the same, all to no avail; and

"Whereas, a balanced budget amendment would require the government not to spend more than it receives in revenues and compel lawmakers to carefully consider choices about spending and taxes; by encouraging spending control and discouraging deficit spending, a balanced budget amendment will help put the Nation on the path to lasting prosperity; now therefore,

"Be it resolved by the Legislature of Alabama, both houses thereof concurring, That the legislature of the State of Alabama hereby respectfully urges the Congress of the United States to propose and submit to the States for ratification a Federal balanced budget amendment to the United States Constitution.

"Be it further resolved, That, in the event that Congress does not submit a balanced budget amendment to the States for ratification on or before December 31, 2011, the Alabama Legislature hereby makes application to the United States Congress to call a convention under Article V of the United States Constitution for the specific and exclusive purpose of proposing an amendment to that Constitution requiring that, in the absence of a national emergency (as determined by the positive vote of such Members of each house of Congress as the amendment shall require), the total of all Federal appropriations made by Congress for any fiscal year not exceed the total of all Federal revenue for that fiscal year.

"Be it further resolved, That, unless rescinded by succeeding legislature, this application by the Alabama Legislature constitutes a continuing application in accordance with Article V of the United States Constitution until at least two-thirds of the legislatures of the several States have made application for a convention to provide for a balanced budget.

"Be it further resolved, That, in the event that Congress does not submit a balanced budget amendment to the States for ratification on or before December 31, 2011, the Alabama Legislature hereby requests that the legislatures of each of the several States that compose the United States apply to Congress requesting Congress to call a convention to propose such an amendment to the United States Constitution.

"Be it further resolved, That this application is rescinded in the event that a convention to propose amendments to the United States Constitution includes purposes other than providing for a balanced Federal budget.

"Be it further resolved, That the copies of this resolution be provided to the following officials:

"1. The President of the United States.

"2. The Speaker of the United States House of Representatives.

"3. The President of the United States Senate.

"4. All members of the Alabama delegation to Congress with the request that this resolution be officially entered in the Congressional Record as an application to the Congress of the United States of America for a convention to propose an amendment to provide for a Federal balanced budget in the event that Congress does not submit such an amendment to the States for ratification on or before December 31, 2011.

"Be it further resolved, That copies of this resolution be provided to the Secretaries of State and to the presiding officers of the legislatures of the other States.''

Signed by Kay Ivey, President and Presiding Officer of the Alabama State Senate; signed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives of the State of Alabama, Mike Hubbard; signed by the Governor of the State of Alabama, the Honorable Robert Bentley on June 7, 2011.

Congress clearly has the duty to pass a balanced budget constitutional amendment to prevent unsustainable spending sprees that threaten America's future.

Quite frankly, and in my judgment, a balanced budget constitutional amendment is the only way to prevent a Federal Government insolvency and bankruptcy and the ensuing economic and national security consequences of such a bankruptcy. I urge this Congress to do the right thing and pass an effective balanced budget constitutional amendment.

But if Congress shirks its duty to America, then I plead for the States to join Texas and Alabama by demanding a constitutional convention for the limited purpose of drafting a balanced budget constitutional amendment. I urge the States to act with haste. America rapidly approaches an economic abyss. The States are our last best hope for American greatness and surviving in generations to come.

Madam Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.


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