Ranking Member Womack Opening Remarks at Investing in America’s Economic and National Security Hearing

As Prepared for Delivery:

Good morning, and thank you to everyone for being here as we discuss budgetary caps and our fiscal future.

Today we will highlight the challenges related to discretionary caps and the competing spending priorities that will be impacted by them. Here is the reality: if money weren’t an object, we wouldn’t have to worry about spending and funding all sorts of great programs. But federal spending is on an unsustainable path.

This is exactly why we are all here – to budget and set the priorities of the nation.

The Budget Committee needs to do this with an understanding that we must discern between our needs and our wants. With regard to the specific topic of this hearing — I believe that the discretionary caps imposed since 2011 have had value. They still have value today, and should be extended and increased gradually, particularly to accommodate for defense spending.  Our Founders made providing for the common defense a priority from the beginning – it’s mandated in the Constitution. It’s up to Congress to fulfill this duty. After years of harmful budget cuts that have previously impaired our defenses, we have finally returned to a point where our military leaders and troops have the resources needed to do their duty.

Stable funding allows our military members to plan and meet growing needs and threats.

We can’t build America’s military might by drastically cutting resources. We need consistent and stable funding as an investment in our continued security. This also means that we need to address the long-term fiscal health of our country as a national security issue –which brings us back to the main topic of this hearing. We are here to discuss discretionary caps, but this conversation – while important – is a waste of time without a plan to address the drivers of our out-of-control debt: mandatory spending. I asked my friends on the other side of the aisle last week – what is their plan to address the growing debt? It has been quiet.

I’m waiting to see their plan.

Again, mandatory spending is clearly driving up deficits and debt. Our nation’s fiscal trajectory will remain unchanged if we don’t address this fact. The pot of money we have to spend also gets smaller and smaller with the ideas of Medicare-for-All, “free college,” and other initiatives touted by my Democratic colleagues. Rather than encouraging spending that will financially drive our country to the ground, Congress needs to face mandatory spending head on. We cannot tax our way out of this problem. Eventually, without reform, federal revenues will only be sufficient to cover mandatory spending and interest payments on the nation’s debt. That is a truly scary scenario.

We need to work together to confront this issue.

In an ideal world, we would have a functioning budget process in Congress, and the Budget Committee would set the topline spending level for the appropriators to fill in the details.  As we keep working toward that goal, I think it makes sense to both increase and extend the caps going forward, while finding ways to address our out-of-control mandatory spending. I look forward to productive conversations with today’s witnesses.

Thank you, and with that, I yield back to Chairman Yarmuth.