The Wire

  • Three takeaways from Alabama’s Runoff Election

    Excerpt:

    With Alabama’s primary election runoffs now in the books, here are three takeaways from the results.

    North Alabama has spoken.
    When this election cycle began, it became evident that north Alabama saw a window of opportunity to increase its influence.  The results from the Republican primary runoff have shown the electorate in that area of the state was eager to flex its muscle.

    Will Ainsworth pulled out an impressive come-from-behind victory in the Lt. Governor’s race. Steve Marshall enjoyed a resounding win in his bid to retain the Attorney General’s office.

  • On Roby’s win: One false media narrative dies, a new one is born

    Excerpt:

    Like Lucy van Pelt of Peanuts comic strip fame repeatedly pulling the football away from Charlie Brown as he lines up to kick it, Rep. Martha Roby (R-Montgomery) once again has shown you can’t beat her in a Republican primary.

    Similar to when she defeated “Gather Your Armies” Rick Barber in the 2010 GOP primary and “Born Free American Woman” Becky Gerritson in the 2016 GOP primary, Roby defeated former Montgomery Mayor Bobby Bright for a second time on Tuesday night, this time by a whopping 36 points.

    Heading into yesterday, many national media reporters were sent into Alabama’s second congressional district looking at the possibility that Roby might have to answer to a revolt for not sticking with then-Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump on the infamous Billy Bush weekend during the 2016 presidential campaign.

  • Mo Brooks Wins FreedomWorks’ Prestigious 2017 FreedomFighter Award

    Excerpt from a Rep. Mo Brooks news release:

    Tuesday, Congressman Mo Brooks (AL-05) was one of only 31 members of the U.S. House of Representatives awarded the prestigious 2017 FreedomFighter Award by FreedomWorks, a leading conservative organization with more than six million members nationwide. Only members of Congress who score better than 90% on the FreedomWorks scorecard receive the FreedomFighter Award. Congressman Brooks’ FreedomWorks score was in the top 4% of all Congressmen in 2017.

    Brooks said, “FreedomWorks is a leading organization in the conservative movement. I thank them for their work keeping members of Congress accountable and scoring key House floor votes which helps the American people better understand the impact of those votes. I was proud to receive the prestigious FreedomWorks 2017 FreedomFighter Award for my voting record in 2017. If America is to maintain its place as the greatest country in world history, more members of Congress must fight for the foundational principles that made America great. I’m fighting in Congress for those principles, and I’m glad to have a partner as effective as FreedomWorks in the fight.”

Rep Bradley Byrne: The push for a balanced budget

(YHN)

When the 115th Congress kicked off last January, I immediately introduced a bill that I believe is fundamental to the future of our country: a Balanced Budget Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The premise of a Balanced Budget Amendment is pretty straightforward. The federal government should not be allowed to spend more than we take in, except in extraordinary circumstances like a time of war.

This isn’t some sort of far flung idea. When I served in the Alabama State Legislature, we were required to pass a balanced budget each year. It was not always easy, but it was the law. The vast majority of states have the same requirement.

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Balancing a budget is also a common occurrence for families in Alabama and across the United States. Every month, people sit around their kitchen table to figure out how to make ends meet and live within their means. Small businesses must do the same.

The federal government should have to play by the same rules.

To truly enact a Balanced Budget Amendment, we would need to add an amendment to the U.S. Constitution. As a reminder, in order to amend the Constitution, the Balanced Budget Amendment must pass both the House and the Senate by a two-thirds majority and then be ratified by three-fourths of the states, which is 38 out of the 50 states. The only other way to amend the Constitution would be through a constitutional convention called for by two-thirds of the states.

Recently, the House voted on House Joint Resolution 2, proposing a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution. Despite receiving the support of a majority of us in the House, the bill did not receive the two-thirds majority necessary under the Constitution.

I was deeply disappointed that most Democrats in the House opposed the Balanced Budget Amendment. Despite talking a lot about our debt, they rejected one of the best opportunities to actually restore fiscal sanity in Washington.

Throughout the course of the debate, two important topics were raised, and I wanted to briefly address each of them.

First, despite what my colleagues on the other side of the aisle believe, the answer to our debt issues is not to tax the American people more. We do not have a tax problem; we have a spending problem.

To be clear, the recently passed tax cuts are not to blame for our nation’s debt issues. As the Heritage Foundation recently pointed out, “tax revenue is expected to fall by only 0.7 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) this year and spending is expected to climb by 3 percent of GDP.” Again, we have a spending problem, not a taxing problem.

Second, the most serious drivers of the national debt are on autopilot. For example, if you eliminated every penny Congress appropriated for defense spending next year, the federal government would still be projected to operate in a deficit.   So-called mandatory spending programs must be reined in, and a balanced budget amendment would finally require Congress to tackle those programs head on.

Now, I know passing a balanced budget would be hard, but I did not run for Congress because I thought the job would be easy. We were elected by our neighbors to make difficult choices and decisions.

So, while our recent effort to pass a Balanced Budget Amendment came up short, I will not let it stop me from continuing to push for a balanced budget that requires the federal government to live within our means, just like the American people.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne is a Republican from Fairhope.

2 years ago

Alabama’s Shelby and Byrne push Balanced Budget Amendment on Capitol Hill

United States Capitol (Photo: Eric B. Walker)
United States Capitol (Photo: Eric B. Walker)
United States Capitol (Photo: Eric B. Walker)

WASHINGTON — In their first official acts of the 115th Congress, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) and Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-AL1) both introduced legislation proposing a constitutional amendment that would require Congress to produce a balanced budget each year.

Shelby’s office said the proposal, which he has pushed every year since he was first elected, is “an effort to reduce our nation’s mounting debt, which has increased from $10.6 trillion when President Obama took office to more than $19 trillion today.”

“The idea behind a balanced budget amendment is simple: the federal government should be required to do what hardworking Americans do every day – balance a budget,” said Shelby. “A $19 trillion debt is simply unsustainable and will place a heavy burden on our children and grandchildren if we do not take steps to reverse this irresponsible course. I’m pleased to once again introduce this common sense policy that would reduce wasteful government spending, restore confidence in our economy, and foster job growth.”

Byrne introduced identical legislation in the House.

“I thought it was important and fitting for my first bill introduced in the 115th Congress to be a balanced budget amendment,” he said. “With the national debt over $19 trillion dollars, it is no secret the federal government has serious spending issues, and I believe a balanced budget amendment is the best way to ensure responsible budgeting.

“Requiring balanced budgets is not a far flung idea. Already, most states are required to have a balanced budget, and families and small businesses face the challenge of living within their means every single day,” he continued. “The federal government should have to play by the same rules in order to restore fiscal sanity in Washington.”

If passed by Congress and then ratified by three-fourths of the states, the 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.

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3 years ago

Alabama lawmaker pushes Convention of States to pass balanced budget amendment

United States Capitol (Photo: Eric B. Walker)
United States Capitol (Photo: Eric B. Walker)
United States Capitol (Photo: Eric B. Walker)

A state senator is pushing to renew Alabama’s call for a Convention of States to amend the U.S. Constitution.

Sen. Gerald Allen (R-Tuscaloosa) has pre-filed a bill for the 2016 Legislative Session that would compel Alabama to join the “Compact for a Balanced Budget,” a group of states “uniting to fix the debt” through a federal Balanced Budget Amendment

The idea of a Convention of States gained steam in 2013 after conservative talk show host Mark Levin advocated for a states-led convention in his book The Liberty Amendments: Restoring the American Republic.

Article V of the U.S. Constitution says that a convention of the states can be convened if two-thirds of the state legislatures (34) approve an application for the convention to occur.

By design, that’s a high bar to clear. And the bar gets even higher when it comes to actually passing a constitutional amendment.

Each state would then choose delegates to represent them at the convention, but each state would only get one vote on proposed amendments. It takes an affirmative vote from three-fourths (38) of the states to actually amend the constitution.

In short, the convention of the states is widely viewed as a last-ditch effort to push back against an overreaching federal government. 27 states have so far passed resolutions calling for a convention to pass a federal balanced budget amendment.

The Alabama Legislature passed a resolution earlier this year strictly limiting the purpose of a proposed convention to three areas:

1) Imposing fiscal restraints on the federal government through a balanced budget amendment;
2) limiting the power and jurisdiction of the federal government; and
3) implementing term limits on federal elected officials.

Members of the Alabama House and Senate who supported the effort say it was necessary because “the federal government has created a crushing national debt” and “invaded the legitimate roles of the states through the manipulative power of federal mandates.”

The resolution Sen. Allen is now proposing is even more narrowly defined. It would limit the convention to only addressing the question of a balanced budget amendment.

“Even if we don’t get enough states behind it, we’ll send a clear message to Congress,” Allen told the Anniston Star. “Get your house in order.”

The possibility of a “runaway convention” is the most often cited concern with convening such a meeting of the states.

“In the course of our work advising state and federal lawmakers and conservative allies across the country, we have been giving this issue close attention and study,” said Dr. Matthew Spalding of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. “The lack of precedent, extensive unknowns, and considerable risks of an Article V amendments convention should bring sober pause to advocates of legitimate constitutional reform contemplating this avenue.”

But Rep. Ken Johnson (R-Moulton), who has sponsored a resolution calling for a Convention of States during the last couple of legislative sessions, said those concerns are overblown.

“Because we’ve never done it, the idea that there could be a ‘runaway convention’ is always brought up as a concern,” Johnson told Yellowhammer earlier this year. “The convention would be limited to a small set of issues. But on top of that, the safeguard is that it only takes 13 states to kill any runaway convention. If there aren’t 13 conservatives states left, we’re in trouble, period. And Washington is a runaway train right now anyway. How much more damage could be done?”

Alabama’s two Senate Budget Chairmen have also been actively involved in the rule-making process for a possible convention. Sen. Trip Pittman (R-Montrose) and Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) traveled to Mt. Vernon, Virginia to discuss the ground rules of a potential convention.

“We discussed the reality that the biggest threat to America is an irresponsible Federal Government,” said Pittman. “Checks that need to be put on the Federal Government have not been accomplished and based on current activity appear not to be likely… 32 (states) participated in the Mount Vernon Assembly, to prepare rules and form committees within a strict framework… to discuss and build support for a possible amendment convention of the States.”

Sen. Allen’s latest bill calls for a 24-hour, one-issue convention to convene in Dallas, Texas, the Wednesday after Congress receives the petition from the required number of states.


RELATED:
1. Two Alabama senators discuss potential constitutional convention at Mt. Vernon Assembly
2. Two top Ala. Senators propose bills laying out guidelines for Convention of States
3. Alabama officially applies to Congress for Convention of States


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3 years ago

Shelby introduces Balanced Budget Amendment

Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.)
Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.)

WASHINGTON — Senator Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) announced this week that he introduced S.J. Res. 9, a resolution to propose a constitutional amendment requiring Congress to have a balanced budget.

“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 Sen. Shelby.

The senator’s proposed amendment would require the federal government’s expenditures to be less than or equal to federal receipts in any fiscal year, except in times of war. The total amount of money spent in a fiscal year could not exceed more than 20 percent of GDP for the previous year.

In addition to being passed by Congress, the amendment would need to be ratified by three-fourths of the states.

“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,” Sen. Shelby said. “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.”

A balanced budget amendment is one of the objectives of the many conservatives who have advocated for a convention of the states, an idea that gained steam in the conservative grassroots community after talk show host Mark Levin advocated for a states-led convention in his book The Liberty Amendments: Restoring the American Republic.

This isn’t the first time Sen. Shelby has introduced legislation to balance the federal budget. In fact, Shelby has introduced a similar resolution in every Congress since being elected in 1987. While such an amendment has had slim chances in the past, Sen. Shelby’s position as chairman of the Senate Banking Committee could give the resolution’s chances a boost.


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4 years ago

Byrne pushes balanced budget amendment to force Federal government to live within its means

Rep. Bradey Byrne (R-AL01)
Rep. Bradey Byrne (R-AL01)

WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-AL1) on Thursday filed a bill calling for a constitutional amendment that requires Congress to balance the federal budget each year.

The U.S. Federal Government spent $3.5 trillion in 2014 and ran up a $486 billion deficit, propelling the country’s debt over $18 trillion.

“Every month American families sit around their kitchen tables and discuss how to live within their means. Difficult decisions are made. Some things have to be cut. But ultimately, it is the responsibility of every American to not spend more than they have,” said Byrne. “Why doesn’t the federal government have to play by the same rules? The national debt is over $18 trillion dollars and it shows no sign of going down without serious efforts to rein in spending.

According to the Heritage Foundation, “over the past 20 years, federal spending grew 63 percent faster than inflation. Mandatory spending, including Social Security and means-tested entitlements, doubled after adjusting for inflation. Discretionary spending grew by 47 percent in real terms. (And going forward) three major budget categories — major health care programs, Social Security, and interest on the debt — will account for 85 percent of nominal spending growth over the next decade.”

If adopted by Congress and passed by three-fourths of state legislatures, Byrne believes his constitutional amendment would force the federal government to live within its means. The major provisions of the proposed amendment require that:

· total outlays for any fiscal year do not exceed total receipts for that fiscal year,
· total outlays for any fiscal year do not exceed one-fifth of economic output of the United States, and
· the President submits a balanced budget proposal to Congress each year.

“This isn’t a foreign idea. When I was in the Alabama State Senate, we were Constitutionally required to operate under a balanced budget. It wasn’t always easy, but it required elected officials to make tough choices in the name of fiscal sanity. Congress should be held to the same standard, and I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.”


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4 years ago

Ala. senators continue push for Constitutional Convention to rein in Federal government

State Sens. Trip Pittman, R-Montrose, and Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, at the Mount Vernon Assembly in Dec. 2013.
State Sens. Trip Pittman, R-Montrose, and Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, at the Mount Vernon Assembly in Dec. 2013.

Alabama Senators Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) and Trip Pittman (R-Montrose) have for the past several months been engaged in a coordinated process with legislators from around the U.S. to move the country toward at state-led Constitutional Convention for the first time in history.

In short, a convention of the states is widely viewed as a last-ditch effort to push back against an overreaching federal government. Potential amendments being kicked around include term limits on federal lawmakers and caps on taxation and spending.

Roughly 100 state legislators from 32 states assembled at Mt. Vernon, Virginia last December to begin laying out ground rules that would be followed should such a convention ever be convened.

That process continued late last week when the Assembly of State Legislatures met again at the Indiana State Capitol in Indianapolis.

The Assembly divided themselves into three committees: Judicial, Rules and Procedures, and Communications and Planning.

Sen. Orr was selected to serve on the Judicial Committee, which discussed how many states are currently calling for a convention, what type of notification is required for a call to be received by Congress, and other matters relating to the legal process of calling for a convention.

Sen. Pittman was selected to the Committee on Rules and Procedures. Among other things, Pittman’s committee affirmed the Assembly’s commitment to one state, one vote, meaning voting at any potential future conventions would not be based on each state’s population. It takes an affirmative vote from three-fourths (38) of the states to actually amend the Constitution.

No issues were formally discussed during the meeting. The group worked instead on the process, procedures and planning.

The Assembly’s focus on a “strict framework” stems from the fact that Article V of the U.S. Constitution leaves some ambiguity in the process of calling for a convention of the states. That has led to some concerns that a convention would be an unruly affair.

Sen. Pittman sought to ease those concerns after last December’s meeting, noting that several checks were being put in place to make a “runaway” convention impossible.

“We’re just meeting to put some rules and procedures in place, but this would be very structured,” he said. “The only way I’d support it is if it was a specific issue convention.”

Pittman reaffirmed his commitment to that process after last week’s meeting.

“Limiting the Federal Government is not going to happen inside the political culture and process of Washington, D.C.,” he told Yellowhammer. “It will require the States utilizing the Article V amendment process to reign in the excesses of the Federal authority. The first step is to draft and approve rules under which an Amendment Convention could safely take place. During this past week’s meeting in Indianapolis, I served on the Rules and Procedures Committee. We adopted the historical and fundamental rule of each state delegation having one vote. Now we can move forward with the additional rules and procedures necessary for a limited Article V Amendment Convention.”

Sen. Orr said he believes it is a positive step that legislators from all over the country have come together to start discussing an Article V convention.

“The meeting was but one more small step in what will be a very, very long process,” he said. “But one of the reasons, I believe, states have never come close to an Article V convening is that the state legislators from among the states rarely talk to one another and never have the ability to establish relationships of mutual trust. This process is changing the status quo.”

What do you think about the the potential for a Convention of the States? Do you think it’s a good idea? Let us know in the comment section below, or by tweeting @YHPolitics.


Check out more of Yellowhammer coverage of the Assembly of State Legislatures:
1. Alabama senators discuss potential constitutional convention at Mt. Vernon Assembly
2. Ala. Senators propose bills laying out guidelines for Convention of States
3. Alabama House passes resolution calling for Convention of the States


Follow Cliff on Twitter @Cliff_Sims

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4 years ago

Alabama House passes resolution calling for Convention of the States

Alabama House of Representatives
Alabama House of Representatives

The Alabama House of Representatives today passed House Joint Resolution 49, an application to Congress calling for a Constitutional Convention under Article V of the United States Constitution.

Article V of the U.S. Constitution says that a convention of the states can be convened if two-thirds of the state legislatures (34) approve an application for the convention to occur.

By design, that’s a high bar to clear. And the bar gets even higher when it comes to actually passing a constitutional amendment. It takes an affirmative vote from three-fourths (38) of the states to actually amend the constitution. Each state would only get one vote on proposed amendments.

The resolution passed today by the Alabama House strictly limits the purpose of the proposed convention to three areas:

1) imposing fiscal restraints on the federal government through a balanced budget amendment; 2) limiting the power and jurisdiction of the federal government; and 3) implementing term limits on federal elected officials.

Rep. Ken Johnson, R-Moulton, told Yellowhammer that he introduced the resolution because he believes a convention is the last available option to force the federal government to live within its means.

“We’re calling for restraints on the federal government,” Johnson said. “That means an amendment that forces them to balance the budget and stops these overreaching federal mandates. We’re also calling for term limits on federal elected offices.”

Johnson said it is important that the states are able to limit the scope of the convention ahead of time, which his resolution does, to mitigate the risk of a “runaway convention.”

“Because we’ve never done it, the idea that there could be a ‘runaway convention’ is always brought up as a concern,” Johnson said. “The convention would be limited to a small set of issues. But on top of that, the safeguard is that it only takes 13 states to kill any runaway convention. If there aren’t 13 conservatives states left, we’re in trouble, period. And Washington is a runaway train right now anyway. How much more damage could be done?”

This resolution, unless rescinded by a succeeding Legislature, constitutes a continuing application until at least two-thirds of all State Legislatures have made application for a convention to provide for these purposes.

It now goes up to the Senate, where several legislators have already been actively involved in the process leading up to a potential Constitutional Convention.

In December of last year, Alabama state senators Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, and Trip Pittman, R-Daphne, joined roughly 100 state legislators from 32 states at Mt. Vernon, Virginia to discuss the ground rules of a potential Convention of the States.

State Sens. Trip Pittman, R-Daphne, and Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, at the Mount Vernon Assembly
State Sens. Trip Pittman, R-Daphne, and Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, at the Mount Vernon Assembly

The full resolution passed by the Alabama House today can be read below.

WHEREAS, the Founders of our Constitution empowered state legislators to be guardians of liberty against future abuses of power by the federal government; and

WHEREAS, the federal government has created a crushing national debt through improper and imprudent
spending; and

WHEREAS, the federal government has invaded the legitimate roles of the states through the manipulative process of federal mandates, most of which are unfunded to a great extent; and

WHEREAS, the federal government has ceased to live under a proper interpretation of the Constitution of the United States; and

WHEREAS, it is the solemn duty of the states to protect the liberty of our people, particularly for the generations to come, to propose amendments to the Constitution of the United States through a Convention of the States under Article V to place clear restraints on these and related abuses of power; now therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF ALABAMA, BOTH HOSUES THEREOF CONCURRING, That the Legislature of the States of Alabama hereby applies to Congress, under the provisions of Article V of the Constitution of the United States, for the calling of a convention of the states limited to proposing amendments that impose fiscal restrains on the federal government, limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government, and limit the terms of office for its officials.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That the Secretary of State is hereby directed to transmit copies of this application to the President and Secretary of the United States Senate and to the Speaker and Clerk of the United States House of Representatives, and to the members of the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States Congress from this state; and to also transmit copies hereof to the presiding officers of each of the legislative houses in the several states, requesting their cooperation.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That this application constitutes a continuing application in accordance with Article V of the Constitution of the United States until the Legislatures of at least two-thirds of the several states have made applications on the same subject.


Follow Cliff on Twitter @Cliff_Sims

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6 years ago

Roby Introduces Amendment to Force Congress to Balance the Budget

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Rep. Martha Roby (R-AL) today introduced an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that, if passed and ratified, would require Congress to annually pass a balanced budget and finally force the federal government to live within its means. Rep. Roby’s proposed amendment would also require the President to submit a balanced budget to the Congress on time each year. The White House said yesterday that they will not meet the legal deadline to submit a budget for the third time in four years.

As Members of the House of Representatives took to the floor today to read the Constitution at length, Rep. Roby said making the nation’s governing framework just one amendment longer could fundamentally change the direction of the country for the better.

“Hardworking, taxpaying Americans balance their family budgets every month,” Rep. Roby said. “But, for the past four years, they’ve watched the federal government over-spend by more than $1 trillion. We’re $16 trillion in debt. It’s past time Congress and the President were Constitutionally required to balance the budget. A Balanced Budget Amendment would restore the fiscal common sense that regular Americans employ every day. It would also provide economic clarity and confidence for a country still struggling to create jobs.”

The ongoing debate about the rate of federal spending and how to reduce the public debt underscores the need for this amendment.

“Yesterday the President spent an hour lecturing Congress about ‘paying our bills.’ Well, one great way to ensure you can always pay your bills is to never charge up more than you can afford. The spending reductions through entitlement reforms we’ve continued to seek are important and needed, but the long-term solution to our country’s debt problem is requiring Washington politicians to pass a balanced budget every year.”

The Balanced Budget Amendment would:

· prohibit federal expenditures from exceeding federal revenues within the same fiscal year and 20 percent of the gross domestic product for the preceding calendar year.

· require the President to, on time before each fiscal year, submit to Congress a proposed federal budget in which total outlays do not exceed total revenues received by the United States.

· have an exception for times of Congressionally-declared war and authorize suspension of prohibitions by concurrent resolution approved by a three-fifths vote of the Senate and a two-thirds vote of the House of Representatives.

Rep. Roby introduced a similar amendment in her first term. The House of Representatives demonstrated its ability to pass such an amendment in the last Congress as part of its efforts to reduce the debt, but the Senate failed to seriously consider the measure.

Constitutional Amendments require passage from both Houses of Congress with a two-thirds majority (290 Representatives, 67 senators) and ratification by three-fourths (38) of the states. Click HERE to see the amendment.

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