Lost in the chatter of news last week was the announcement that Alabama’s senior United States’ Senator Richard Shelby had introduced S.J. Res. 9, a resolution proposing a constitutional amendment that would require Congress to have a balanced budget. Shelby has introduced similar legislation in every Congress since taking office.
“I have long believed that one of the few shortfalls of our Constitution is the omission of a requirement for the federal government to do what hardworking Americans do every day- balance a budget,” said Senator Shelby. “Our national debt recently surpassed $18 trillion, serving as a harsh reminder of the burden that will be placed on future generations if the federal government continues to operate on its unsustainable spending trajectory. Requiring Washington to balance its budget is a common sense policy that would reduce wasteful spending, restore confidence in our economy, and foster job growth.”
On February 9, 2015, S.J. Res 9 was read twice and referred to the Committee on the Judiciary. If passed by Congress and then 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, not exceed the amount of revenue received by the United States during the same fiscal year and not exceed 20 percent of the gross domestic product of the United States during the previous calendar year.
Shelby joins fellow Alabama Representative Bradley Byrne in pursuing this ambitious goal. (See: http://www.alaforestrygovtaffairs.org/congressman-byrne-gets-it/). Byrne’s H.J. Res. 12 was introduced on January 12, 2015 and referred to the House Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice.
Why is it noteworthy that Shelby has introduced, yet again, this resolution?
Because his support and influence can make a difference.
This might come as a shock to some folks…. but Shelby is quite powerful now that Republicans once again are in charge of the Senate.
Senator Shelby currently ranks as the 7th most senior senator and is the 5th highest ranking Republican. Trailing only Orrin Hatch (R-UT, President pro temp), Thad Cochran (R-MS, Chairman of Appropriations), Chuck Grassley (R-IA, Chairman of Judiciary) and Mitch McConnell (R-KY, Senate Majority Leader), Shelby finds himself in the rarefied air of leadership in the United States Congress.
First elected to the Senate in January 1987, Senator Shelby is the Chairman of the Banking Committee and is third highest ranking member of the powerful Appropriations committee, chairing the subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies, which makes him one of the 12 Senate “Cardinals.”
Shelby began his legislative career as a member of the Alabama Senate in 1970, serving until 1978, when he was elected to the United States House of Representatives from the Tuscaloosa-based 7th District. He was re-elected three times and then ran for the U.S. Senate in 1986. Running as a Democrat, he eventually bested incumbent Republican Jeremiah Denton by a razor thin margin of 1% (50.28%-49.72%). Denton had been the first Republican elected to the Senate from Alabama since Reconstruction. Shelby’s victory assisted the Democrats in regaining control of the Senate.
On November 9, 1994, Shelby switched to the Republican Party as the Republicans regained control of the Senate. He won his first full term as a Republican in 1998 by a large margin and has not looked back or slowed down since.
He has announced his intention on running for re-election in 2016 and with his victory, Alabama’s influence on the national stage will only increase.
We will watch with interest to see if Senator Shelby’s stature and power can now move a balanced budget amendment towards full and open debate.