Chairman Womack Opening Remarks at Final CBO Oversight Hearing

As prepared for delivery during today’s hearing, CBO Oversight: Perspectives from Outside Experts

Good morning, and thank you for joining us as we wrap up our discussion on the Congressional Budget Office.

Today, we are concluding our five-part series of oversight hearings on CBO — a nonpartisan support agency that has played a vital role in the congressional budget process for more than 40 years.

Established by the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Act of 1974, CBO directly assists the House and Senate Budget Committees and supports the work of Congress with its nonpartisan budgetary analysis.

Even though CBO has existed for decades, this oversight series marks the first time the agency has ever undergone a comprehensive review.

Over the years, CBO’s mission of supporting the congressional budget process has remained the same, but as we have learned during these hearings, demands on and expectations of the agency have evolved.

So while the purpose of this series has certainly been educational, it’s also helped us identify and consider potential areas for improvement.

At the end of the day, we want to make sure CBO has everything it needs to fulfill its mandate of supporting Congress in the 21st century effectively and efficiently.

We started this series by discussing CBO’s organizational and operational structure with CBO’s current director, Dr. Keith Hall.

In our second hearing, we began to explore some of the more technical aspects of how CBO actually crafts the impartial work-products Congress relies on to make informed legislative decisions.

During our third hearing, we took a deeper dive into CBO’s use of models as a tool in scoring legislative proposals and what kinds of assumptions are made in the process.

And last week, we heard from interested Members of the House, who shared their ideas for improvements at CBO, as well as their perspectives on challenges they have experienced when interacting with the agency.

Today, we will close out the series. My thanks to the witnesses joining us as we do so.

In our first panel, we will hear from two former CBO directors, who guided the agency at different stages in CBO’s history.

Each director was appointed during different eras of Congress, and both were selected to serve based on their ability to perform the duties of the role—not because of their political affiliations.

We are pleased to welcome Dr. Alice Rivlin, who was the very first director of CBO and served as head of the agency for eight years. She has also served as OMB director and Federal Reserve Board vice-chairwoman.

Also joining us is Dr. Douglas Holtz-Eakin, who was appointed as director of CBO in 2003 and led the agency for nearly three years. He has served on the President’s Council of Economic Advisors, and he is currently president of the American Action Forum.

I look forward to hearing the unique insights Dr. Rivlin and Dr. Holtz-Eakin can share about CBO’s past operations, as well as different challenges faced over the years.

In the second panel, we will hear from budget policy and process experts who can provide valuable outside perspective.

Joining us from the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget is the organization’s president, Maya MacGuineas. Known for her expertise in budget, tax, and economic policy, Maya also heads the Campaign to Fix the Debt.

Maya has been at the forefront of budget issues for years and is able to discuss the importance of CBO within the context of the larger budget process.

Maya is joined by Sandy Davis from the Bipartisan Policy Center.

Sandy currently serves as Senior Advisor for the organization’s Economic Policy Project, and he also has a wealth of knowledge about the budget process.

Prior to working at BPC, he devoted more than 30 years of service to CBO, including as Associate Director for Legislative Affairs. He was the first person to hold this position.

Before joining CBO in 1996, Sandy specialized in budget process at the Congressional Research Service.

Through these CBO oversight hearings, we have learned much about the inner workings of CBO and the challenges the agency faces as it provides Congress with nonpartisan budgetary analysis.

Our conversations today will help the committee continue to determine actionable solutions for CBO’s ongoing success.

As we’ve considered this important topic, two consistent themes have arisen: the desire to improve the accuracy of CBO’s work and the desire to increase transparency at the agency.

Without question, the simple exercise of having these hearings has already enhanced communication between CBO and Congress, and I believe this exchange is only made better through regular oversight.

That means not waiting another 40 years for a comprehensive review and consideration of how to update the agency for the 21st Century.

Before we get started, I want to remind everyone that our goal here is to make sure CBO has the tools it needs to effectively support the congressional budget process.

Especially with the recently formed select committee, there is genuine interest on both sides of the aisle to have a working budget process. CBO undoubtedly plays an essential role in that.

I look forward to the conversations ahead and continuing to engage in a productive, bipartisan dialogue about CBO.

Thank you, and with that, I yield to the Ranking Member, Mr. Yarmuth.