Ranking Member Steve Womack (R-AR) Opening Statement at Hearing Titled: “Machines, Artificial Intelligence, & the Workforce: Recovering & Readying Our Economy for the Future”

As Prepared for Delivery:

Thank you, Chairman Yarmuth, for holding this hearing, and thank you to our witnesses for joining us today.

I would like to welcome one more person – Representative Chris Jacobs, the newest member of the Committee. A native of Buffalo, New York, Chris has a long history of public service – as Erie County Clerk, a state senator, and now joining us as a Member of Congress. This isn’t his first tour of duty in the Capitol. He began his career working for former Congressman – and Buffalo Bills quarterback – Jack Kemp. Chris – welcome to the Budget Committee. And to your wife and daughter, Martina and Anna, thank you for allowing your husband and father to continue his public service career by spending time in Washington. Chris, welcome.

We are here today to talk about artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities – both current and future – and the impacts on the economy and federal budget.

AI is a critical technology that will benefit the lives of many Americans, and touch nearly every sector of the U.S. economy. While it will likely change the way many jobs are performed, as technological advances have for many decades, we must harness the capabilities of AI to help drive our economy and society forward. Congress must ensure that its actions do not stifle innovation. Rather, government should work in partnership with the private sector to move our country forward in AI research and development (R&D).

By making strategic federal investments in AI R&D, Washington can help unleash America’s pioneering and entrepreneurial spirit. This also means creating a regulatory environment that supports – not hinders – private industry by allowing technological advancements to flourish in a safe, trustworthy, and effective way.

Congress should also move to encourage more American high-tech manufacturing in general. The U.S. currently relies on countries located in geopolitical hotspots for many critical components, and as the coronavirus pandemic has shown with medical supplies, we need to ensure we have reliable, secure, and diverse supply chains for vital materials.

While this is an interesting and important topic, it should not be the reason why the Budget Committee is convening this afternoon.

The dire fiscal outlook – notably the recent deficit and debt projections – and a discussion on how to tackle these challenges should be the focus of today’s Budget Committee meeting. Last week, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its budget outlook update, and, let me tell you, the findings are incredibly sobering but not surprising. We did not do our job before the pandemic hit. This Committee is charged with writing a budget to put our country on a responsible fiscal path. We failed that duty. Once COVID-19 hit, we were obligated to respond to the crisis. For those of you who don’t know, let me summarize where our nation stands fiscally. It isn’t good.

The deficit for fiscal year 2020 is projected to be $3.3 trillion, more than triple the previous year’s deficit and by far the highest in American history. Every single year, for the next 10 years, CBO is projecting that annual deficits will exceed one trillion dollars and total $13 trillion over the period. The public debt is projected to be larger than the size of the entire economy by next year (104 percent of GDP) and will continue to increase to more than $33 trillion by fiscal year 2030 (109 percent of GDP). Once again, CBO confirmed the driver of the fiscal problem: federal spending, particularly mandatory spending. Mandatory spending, including interest payments on the federal debt, is expected to account for 75 percent of total federal spending by 2030, squeezing out resources for important discretionary priorities, including investments in AI.

The job of this Committee is to write a budget resolution that sets a fiscal path for the government to follow. We didn’t write one; we don’t have one. Instead of considering a budget resolution, we are talking about artificial intelligence, which, as I mentioned before, while an interesting topic, is not the mandate for this Committee. The Democrat Majority has neglected to do a budget resolution for the past two years. CBO’s projections illustrate the necessity for the Democrat Majority to do its job: write and pass a budget resolution that provides a responsible fiscal framework to correct the current trajectory.

With that, I look forward to hearing from our witnesses, and I look forward to today’s discussion. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I yield back.