Welcome all, to this important hearing.
I’d like to thank our witness today, Mr. Zients, for coming to us under difficult circumstances.
With the departure of Mr. Lew from OMB just last month, we understand that you are testifying on short notice, and we recognize the difficulty of that.
And unfortunately, your job is even more difficult than usual – you are in the position of having to defend a budget that essentially dodges the most difficult challenges our country faces.
The New York Times has reported that this budget is, quote, “more a platform for the president’s re-election campaign than a legislative proposal.” After a careful review, it’s hard to disagree.
The Associated Press has reported – accurately in my view – that this budget, quote, “[takes] a pass on reining in government growth.”
Instead, it leaves the drivers of our debt – namely, the unsustainable growth of entitlement spending – quote, “largely unchecked.”
It takes a pass on real reform, even though the looming bankruptcy of these programs threatens to end the guarantee of security they provide for our nation’s seniors.
And it breaks the President’s promise to cut the deficit in half by the end of his term. As ABC News reported, this budget “does not come close.”
We’ve heard a lot of excuses from this administration for why the President broke his promise. But what we haven’t heard is any semblance of accountability.
To the best of my knowledge, no one in the White House has taken responsibility for this failure.
Instead, we’ve gotten a blame game that doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.
Jack Lew, your former boss, claimed that the reason Senate Democrats haven’t passed a budget in over 1,000 days is that the Republicans have threatened to filibuster.
This is simply false. As Mr. Lew surely knows, budget resolutions cannot be filibustered. They can be passed with a simple majority.
The real source of dysfunction in the Senate comes from members of the President’s own party, who have been unwilling – for almost three years now – to go on record in support of his budgets, or to pass budgets of their own.
More to the point, it wasn’t so long ago that the President’s party held total control of the White House and both branches of Congress – during which time his agenda was enacted in near totality:
massive new spending and taxes
the creation of new, open-ended entitlements
a regulatory onslaught that hurt the economy
and trillions of dollars in new debt.
Even after all this, the new House Majority provided him with an opportunity to make good on his promise – to put aside the “chronic avoidance of tough decisions” that he once lamented.
We were – and we remain – eager to work with the President to stop spending money we don’t have… to reform government programs that aren’t delivering on their promises… and to enact pro-growth policies that raise revenue by getting our economy moving again.
Yet, instead of working with us, the President has demonized our ideas to save and strengthen health and retirement security programs.
He fought to keep his reckless spending spree going.
And he continues to insist on taking more money from hardworking Americans – not to reduce the debt, but to fuel his ever-higher spending.
The President’s ongoing refusal to advance serious solutions to our nation’s fiscal challenges represents a stunning dereliction of duty.
But I haven’t given up hope. I remain committed to working with my colleagues of both parties wherever common ground can be reached.
There is a growing bipartisan consensus for the reforms that are needed. But this consensus cannot succeed as long as the President of the United States remains on the outside looking in.
Unfortunately, that’s where he stands today. And my hope is that this hearing can shed some light on why.
Mr. Zients, we look forward to your testimony, but we do not envy your predicament. This unserious budget raises some very serious questions, and the American people deserve answers.
With that, I yield to the Ranking Member, Mr. Van Hollen.