Mr. SESSIONS. Mr. President, I rise today to discuss our Nation's need to adopt a balanced budget amendment and to bring the Senate's attention to the Alabama Legislature's recent call for Congress to send such an amendment to the States for ratification. This is a thoughtful and well-reasoned resolution. Many other States have made similar resolutions. Our Nation is on the precipice of the most predictable fiscal disaster in our history and Congress has failed to act to remove the danger. U.S. gross Federal debt is now over $16.3 trillion; U.S. debt per person is over $53,000, higher than that of Greece; and for the fourth straight year, our Nation's deficit will exceed $1 trillion. The Federal Government cannot continue spending more than it takes in, and the people of Alabama clearly know that.
The American people understand the necessity of living within one's means and balancing budgets. We see that as American families across the Nation are working to pay off their debt. In fact, American families have improved their balance sheets by reducing their outstanding credit card debt by 17 percent since 2008, over $150 billion. The people expect no less of their State governments. Forty-three of the 50 States, including my home State of Alabama, have balanced budget requirements.
Unfortunately, as States and families across the Nation cut spending and balance budgets, the Federal Government continues to spend more and has increased its debt by more than $4 trillion since 2008. This spending course will at some point wreck our economy, just as it has wrecked that of Greece, Spain, and Italy. Now, more than ever, it is crucial that Congress adopt a balanced budget amendment and send it to the States for ratification. The surging debt crisis we face is so significant that we must have a balanced budget constitutional amendment. It has come close to passing before. When Senators and Congressmen have no alternative but to live within their means, like so many of our States, they will figure out a way to do it. But if Congress is not required by the Constitution to budget responsibly, then history has shown that Congress will not act responsibly.
The people of Alabama understand these issues and the importance of balancing the budget. That is why the Alabama State Legislature has passed a resolution urging Congress to send a balanced budget amendment to the States for ratification. The people of Alabama are well aware of the dangers we face. Introduced by Senator Arthur Orr of Decatur, AL, with several of his colleagues in the legislature, this resolution acknowledges that ``the budget deficits of the United States of America are unsustainable and constitute substantial threat to the United States government.'' The resolution calls for Congress to pass a balanced budget amendment, and if the Congress fails to do so, then for Congress to call a constitutional convention to propose such an amendment. I applaud Senator Orr and his colleagues, Senators Scofield, Sanford, Holtzclaw, Williams, McGill, and Beason, for bringing attention to this issue and introducing this resolution. We will only see more grassroots movements like this to pass a balanced budget amendment if Washington continues to fail to meet the challenges of our time.
It is not just my constituents in Alabama who are upset. Recent polling has shown that this Congress has one of the lowest approval ratings in history. The American people are becoming disillusioned and losing faith in their elected government as we fail to address the crises of our day. Indeed, we are not even working openly to deal with this great challenge. It is sad that Congress cannot even perform its basic business, as seen in the failure of the Senate to pass one regular appropriations bill this year or a budget in nearly 4 years.
The Senate is supposed to be the world's great deliberative body. Unfortunately, the leader of this body and his majority party will not even propose a budget to the American people. When I came to the Senate in 1997, I voted for a balanced budget amendment that fell one vote short of the 67 it required for adoption. How much better off would we have been today, how much less debt would we have placed on our children and grandchildren had that amendment been passed? Last year, Republicans put forward a plan to cut, cap, and balance our Nation's budget which would have solved all our fiscal problems. But the Democrat majority would not let it pass.
I applaud the members of the Alabama legislature for adopting and Governor Robert Bentley for signing this resolution. House Speaker Mike Hubbard and Senate Pro Tempore Del Marsh and their members have spoken clearly. This resolution exhibits leadership and wisdom not found here in Washington, DC. It is time we listen to the States and to our constituents and adopt a balanced budget amendment to the United States Constitution.
Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent to have printed in the Record this resolution adopted by the Alabama Legislature and signed by Governor Robert Bentley urging the United States Congress to submit a balanced budget amendment to the States or to call a convention to propose such an amendment to the United States Constitution.
There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows:
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 $1,300,000,000,000, 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 a $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 situations 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 revenue 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; and 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; and be it further
Resolved, That, unless rescinded by a 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; and 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; and 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; and 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; and 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.