Ranking Member Steve Womack (R-AR) Opening Statement at Hearing Titled: “The President’s Fiscal Year 2021 Budget”

Remarks as prepared for delivery:

Thank you, Chairman Yarmuth, for holding this hearing, and thank you, Acting Director Vought, for being here with us today. We’re here to examine the President’s budget request for fiscal year 2021. I applaud him for actually doing a budget. Here, in the House Budget Committee, for the second year in a row, we did not.

This is interesting to me, because on our Committee Majority’s website, there is a section titled “Responsibility.” The first sentence in this section reads, “The Committee’s chief responsibility is to draft an annual concurrent resolution on the budget that provides a congressional framework for spending and revenue levels, the federal surplus or deficit, and public debt.”

As we all know, the Constitution gives Congress the power of the purse. Funding the priorities of the American people while addressing our nation’s serious fiscal challenges is no easy task. It requires a lot of collaboration, which is why hearing from the administration today is so important.

In recent months, we’ve heard from the Federal Reserve and the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), as well as many other outside experts who have all consistently warned us that our nation is nearing a fiscal crisis.

The national debt is $23 trillion, and it is projected to grow to more than $36 trillion within a decade. Soon thereafter, on our current path, the federal debt will reach the highest level in American history as a percentage of the economy.

CBO projects that by 2049, the federal debt will equal $248,000 per American – almost $1 million per family of four. From there, it will continue to grow.

Interest payments on the debt will increasingly crowd out the other federal spending that is directed towards programs many Americans rely on. CBO projects interest payments on the debt will amount to $382 billion in fiscal year 2020, which is 11 percent of federal tax revenue.

We cannot continue down this path. We must lead by example, making the tough choices necessary to reverse course. Yet, here we are, the greatest nation in the history of the world, and we can’t even manage to come up with something as simple as a budget. But, the President is doing his duty and has put forward a budget that takes steps in the right direction.

This budget does not achieve balance within 10 years, but the overall 10-year fiscal trajectory puts the budget on a path to balance by 2035.

The President’s budget reduces deficits by $4.6 trillion between 2021 and 2030. Whereas, under current law, deficits are more than $1 trillion annually, under this proposal, the annual deficit would be lowered to $261 billion by 2030.

Further, this budget reduces the share of the debt held by the public from 81 percent of GDP to 66 percent of GDP – that’s a tremendous improvement from the historically high debt levels projected for 2030 under current law.

The President’s budget also does not breach the spending caps called for in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2019. It meets the defense spending cap and is below the non-defense discretionary cap by $37 billion for fiscal year 2021.

Additionally, there are several priorities I am pleased to see in this budget:

First, as someone who has served in the military, I believe ensuring the safety and security of the American people is the most fundamental purpose of the federal government. I appreciate the Trump Administration’s clear commitment to this responsibility.

Second, I also appreciate the administration’s focus in this budget on improving the long-term health of the American people by investing in measures to combat the opioid epidemic that is crippling communities across the country.

Third, we’ve heard here in this room many times that our economy is historically strong. The number of jobs available exceeds the number of people looking for work by one million. We must ensure that our workforce meets the demands of our strong economy, which is why I’m pleased that the administration is once again investing in career and technical education programs.

But, as I have said before, the biggest threat to all of these priorities – and to the long-term security of our nation – is our out-of-control mandatory spending. Today, mandatory spending programs account for 70 percent of all federal spending and are projected to increase to 76 percent by 2029.

These programs have far outgrown their intended size and scope, and they have far exceeded what we can afford. I have said many times that we cannot have a real conversation about reducing the deficits and debt without addressing mandatory spending – the real driver of our fiscal troubles. That’s why I’m especially pleased that the President’s budget request proposes over $2 trillion in cuts to mandatory spending.

In addition, the President’s budget wages war on wasteful spending, such as improper payments and imprudent end-of-year spending. According to data from the nonprofit group, Open the Books, in the final two days of 2018, federal agencies’ expenditures included $4.6 million on lobster tails and crab, more than $308,000 on alcohol, and more than $673,000 on golf carts – just to name a few.

Eliminating this egregiously wasteful spending has been a priority in past Republican budgets, and I’m pleased that President Trump is continuing these important, commonsense efforts to stop the grossly irresponsible use of taxpayer dollars.

While the President’s budget takes steps in the right direction, there is still much work to be done. It is imperative that we work together in a bipartisan, bicameral fashion to advance a budget that funds our nation’s important priorities while acknowledging our very real fiscal challenges.

I look forward to this discussion. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I yield back.

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