Ranking member Womack Opening Remarks at Fiscal year 2020 Budget: Members’ Day Hearing

As Prepared For Delivery:

Thank you, Chairman Yarmuth.

I want to start by commending you and your staff for drawing 26 of our colleagues to participate in our annual Members’ Day. That’s 26 times more member participation than we experienced at this very hearing last year, when our friend from Michigan, Mr. Kildee, was the only member to testify before this Committee. Although, I would note that at our Joint Select Committee hearing on Budget and Appropriations Process Reform, 25 members testified.

As we undergo the process of crafting a budget resolution for this fiscal year, I’m encouraged to see members from across the country, with diverse perspectives and constituencies, join this discussion.

To all our colleagues, your voices are an important part of this conversation, and I thank you for being here today.

As everyone in this room knows, the fiscal health of our nation is deteriorating and, unless we take significant action, this trend will soon begin to impact every aspect of American life — from the strength of our economy to the strength of our national security. According to the Congressional Budget Office, if we maintain the status quo, deficits will total $11.6 trillion and the national debt will rise to $33.7 trillion over the next decade. Over that same period, federal debt held by the public will surge from 78 percent to 93 percent of GDP — the highest debt level since just after World War II and more than twice the average level of the past 50 years.

What is driving our deficits? Out-of-control, unchecked spending.

As we heard from CBO Director Hall earlier this year, mandatory spending programs such as Medicare and Social Security are the core drivers of our debt. Today, mandatory spending accounts for 70 percent of total federal spending, and is expected to increase to 78 percent of total federal spending by 2029.

What does that really mean for workers and families in our communities?

It means the programs they are paying into today and counting on for the future may not be around when they need them most. It also means there will be fewer dollars for basic government operations, including defense, homeland security, and education. These are the programs that are being squeezed by mandatory spending. Despite these very real fiscal threats, over the last several months, we have been hearing more and more about proposals that will exacerbate our problems rather than solve them.

Toward that end, I want to ask the other side, again, what is your plan to reconcile the desire for astronomical spending increases with the need to address the ballooning national debt? Will you pass a budget, and if so, what’s your timing?

We have a moral obligation to get our fiscal house in order — to make sure that our children and grandchildren aren’t saddled in the future with the spending decisions Washington makes today — and that requires tough choices. That requires asking ourselves: can we afford it — and should our constituents be forced to pay the price?

I look forward to hearing the answers to these questions during today’s discussion.

With that, Mr. Chairman, thank you again. I yield back.