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Public Statements

Proposing an Amendment to the Constitution Relative to Requiring a Balanced Budget

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. KIRK. Mr. President, I rise to talk about the balanced budget amendment. It is obvious America's government is spending, taxing, and borrowing too much. That is why Congress should approve the balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.

It was a good idea when Thomas Jefferson supported it, and it is an even better idea today.

America is a great experiment in self-government. Self-government requires self-control. Early thinkers about America's democracy worried about the capacity of the government to borrow in a way that would cripple our freedom.

Children cannot vote, but the Congress of their parents can put our kids into debt. We should fight fiscal child abuse by ending such borrowing that hurts our kids' long-term economic future.

In recent days, we witnessed clear warning signs that the days of big borrowing are ending, not because Congress has changed its free-spending ways but because lenders are increasingly worried that they will never be repaid. This summer, America lost its triple-A credit rating, according to Standard & Poor's. This loss of confidence mirrors a crisis in Europe reflecting a collective judgment that Greece and Ireland and Portugal and Spain and even Italy may not be able to repay the amount of money they have borrowed. As Prime Minister Thatcher reportedly said, ``Eventually governments run out of other people's money.''

In this environment, it is important to show how we are different from Europe. If we approve the balanced budget amendment and cut spending, we will restore confidence in the Federal debt, in America's economy, but most important, in the ideal of self-government.

America owes $15 trillion or about $40,000 for each new American born. For their sake, we need to restrict the ability of the current generation to obligate young Americans to pay their debts.

Should this amendment fail, we will wound the long-term credit of the United States. More deeply, we will hurt the ideal of self-government and self-control that is the foundation of our freedom.

EGYPT

I would like to take this moment to talk about another issue; that is, we as Americans support freedom and democracy and the rights of all peoples. But, as Gaza taught us in 2006, free elections by themselves do not make up a democracy. There are times when people are offered a chance to elect party leaders who offer them only one election to affirm a dictatorship. We can also learn from the year 1938 that the dangers of ignoring developments abroad are huge. Now, in the wake of the Arab Spring, we turn away from that region at our own peril.

On November 28, the first stage of the Egyptian elections began, which will inaugurate a new electoral system forming a bicameral legislature. This first stage determines about 30 percent of the 498 seats for the government's lower chamber, called the People's Assembly.

Before Egyptians arrived at the polls, protesters filled Tahrir Square in Cairo. As a result, over 40 Egyptians were killed. Many are objecting to the military's interference in the electoral process and the decision to force elections well before secular parties had time to build their capacities. According to public polling and sources on the ground, this will likely hand an electoral victory to the Muslim Brotherhood and more radical Islamist elements within the Egyptian society. Although elections will last until March of 2012, the prediction of a Muslim Brotherhood victory is already becoming a reality. Early data shows an alarming trend of Islamist domination of the Egyptian Parliament.

On December 5, the High Electoral Commission announced that leaders of the Freedom and Justice Party, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, had received a plurality of 36 percent of the vote, while the secular Egyptian Bloc had gained less than 12 percent. When we include the runoff elections, which took place last week, it appears that the Muslim Brotherhood has won 73 out of 150 seats or 49 percent of the currently contested outcomes. This is the same party that led a pre-election rally of 5,000 chanting ``one day we shall kill all the Jews'' and ``Tel Aviv, Tel Aviv, Judgment Day is coming.''

While many expected the Brotherhood to do well, there were other surprises. Salafist parties, made up of anti-Western hardliners who follow a particularly radical version of Islam, are also faring particularly well. Surpassing predictions, they received 24 percent of the vote in the first round.

Importantly, these elections also included the so-called liberal districts of Cairo and the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria. The weakness of liberal parties--namely, their inability to reach out to voters effectively with a serious agenda--is now fully exposed. Islamists are taking full advantage of deeply rooted networks that extend from the mosques into Egypt's poor districts. Their grip in the traditionally conservative areas of Alexandria proved particularly tight, and these areas are also home to a majority of the Coptic Christian community.

It is clear that if Islamist parties and candidates continue their currently won gains in other elections, they will capture 60 percent of the national vote in Egypt. This will situate the new Egyptian Parliament around deep ideological differences between Salafis, the Muslim Brotherhood, and liberal groups, making the Brotherhood the power brokers between Egyptian left and right.

What does this all mean? By January, the United States could face an Egypt defined by a hatred of Israel and many of the freedoms we hold dear--a freedom of expression, of women's rights, and the right to practice any religion. This Egypt counts Iran as a friend and poses a threat to the Camp David Peace Accords, which have served as the cornerstone for Egypt's strategic position for 30 years.

Do we expect that an Islamist-led Egypt will prevent weapons from arriving in the hands of Hamas? Will an Islamist-led Egypt help preserve a free South Sudan? Will an Islamist-led Egypt act to protect Coptic Christians who make up about 10 percent of Egypt? Will we see continued violence, as we saw on October 9 in Maspero, which killed 27 civilians and injured hundreds? Will an Islamist-led Egypt do what we expect with more than $1 billion of U.S. foreign assistance? Will they continue to share intelligence and to work against terrorism? These are all questions that may become critical issues for the national security of the United States very shortly.

All of this instantly prevents foreign investment and tourism that would help the Egyptian economy. The IMF has forecasted a little over 1 percent growth for the Egyptian economy next year. They said inflation will top 11 percent, while almost 12 percent of Egyptians will be out of work. Recently, the Egyptian pound traded at its lowest level against the dollar in 7 years.

This time last year the region was on the threshold of exciting change, but today Egypt sits instead on the threshold of a very dangerous path.

The United States--and especially our State Department

in particular--should do what it can to keep Egypt attached to peace and good relations with the West. The United States is now on the verge of a historic defeat and reversal of American interests in Egypt. Currently, if there is an Obama administration plan for handling a new Islamist Egypt that rejects peace with Israel and allies with Iran, I don't know it, and I don't know if anyone does. We must keep our finger on the pulse of this process. Liberal voices in Egypt must work to preserve the democratic goals of the January revolution.
Recently, I had the privilege of meeting some of Egypt's best and brightest young liberal leaders. They would like to build a free Egypt that respects women's rights and religious minorities and the rule of law. I was encouraged in meeting with them but only hope that the coming election is not like a 1930s election in Germany, where people in Egypt are given one choice--to affirm a dictatorship--and then that is the end.

If a radical Islamic government arises in Egypt--one that disavows the Camp David Peace Accords and no longer acts as a stable strategic partner in the Middle East--then we will look back on the recent election in Egypt and its successors in December and January as the turning point for a historic reversal of the United States.

My hope is that the State Department watches this very carefully. My hope is that we have a plan to make sure this critical country stays within the U.S. orbit. But my fear, given the recent elections in Egypt, is that we have already lost quite a bit of ground.

If current trends continue, then by the middle of next year we will have a Muslim Brotherhood government in command of the Suez Canal, in charge of Cairo--the second center of learning in the Arab world--along the border of our Israeli allies, friendly to Hamas, friendly to Iran, and hostile to Europe and the United States. My hope is that over the holidays we will work very hard and diligently with our allies--and especially liberal forces in Egypt--to make sure that reversal doesn't happen.

With that, Mr. President, I yield the floor, and I suggest the absence of a quorum.

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