Chairman Yarmuth Opening Statement on the Investing for the People Act in House Rules Committee
Washington, D.C.— Kentucky Congressman John Yarmuth, Chairman of the House Budget Committee, gave the following opening statement during this evening’s House Rules Committee hearing on the Investing for the People Act of 2019 (H.R. 2021). Remarks as prepared below:
Last week, the House Budget Committee passed the Investing for the People Act, a two-year budget that will move our country forward and ensure Congress can meet its obligations to the American people. As Chairman of the committee, I’m honored to present this bill to the Rules Committee today in advance of floor action. This bill raises sequestration caps to stop extreme cuts from ever being implemented, corrects years of austerity spending for crucial domestic investments, helps prevent another government shutdown, and provides responsible governing in the face of recklessness.
We find ourselves in this position, as we all know, because the Budget Control Act of 2011 used the threat of deep cuts to both defense and non-defense spending levels in order to force an agreement on a wider deficit reduction package. These sequestration caps were designed to be so drastic and so painful that the very threat of their implementation would be enough to spur action. Despite that threat, a deficit reduction package was never enacted. As a result, Congress was forced to come together to raise the caps in 2012, 2013, 2015, and 2018. It is time for us to act again.
Those recent bipartisan deals were successful because they were based on the principle of parity – that is, a dollar-for-dollar increase in the caps for both defense and non-defense. The parity principle started with the BCA itself, which divided the sequestration cuts equally between defense and non-defense. H.R. 2021 adheres to this bipartisan principle, allowing us to move forward quickly and responsibly, and ensure our Appropriators have realistic toplines in place.
But even with the four bicameral deals I mentioned, non-defense discretionary spending has never fully recovered from years of insufficient funding. NDD currently sits near historic lows, at 3.2 percent of GDP, and if Congress doesn’t establish new budget caps this year, it will be cut even further. The Investing for the People Act, which I am honored to have House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita Lowey on as an original co-sponsor, corrects this imbalance.
Under our bill, the year-to-year increase for non-defense investments will be twice as large as that for defense spending, which is adjusted only for inflation. The resulting budget levels would mean non-defense funding is finally back to the level, in inflation-adjusted terms, before the BCA started wreaking havoc on our ability to invest in our communities and our families. This bill soundly rejects the President and Congressional Republicans’ proposals to blindly boost military spending to $750 billion— a level above what the Pentagon said was sufficient to meet the National Defense Strategy. It also rebuffs the President’s egregious misuse of the Overseas Contingency Operations fund, which will be capped at no higher than the 2019 levels previously agreed to.
Additionally, our bill adheres to the parity principle reflected in the amendment proposed by Senator Murray in the Senate Budget Committee’s budget resolution markup last month, and aligns with the bipartisan, bicameral caps deals of the past.
Passing this two-year budget is both smart and responsible. It provides the Appropriations Committee clear top-line budget levels, so they can craft the must-pass legislation needed to fund our government. This will help us avoid a continuing resolution or, at worst, another government shutdown.
By passing the Investing for the People Act, we in the House will be doing our jobs, following regular order, and ensuring we can meet the needs and priorities of our families and communities.
As the committee considers this legislation, I ask for a structured rule that will allow for meaningful debate.
I look forward to passing this bill in the House, and I look forward to taking your questions today.
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