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Van Hollen Opening Remarks at Mark Up of the Concurrent Resolution on the Budget for FY 2017

Mar 16, 2016

Washington, DC – Today Maryland Congressman Chris Van Hollen, Ranking Member of the House Budget Committee, made opening remarks at the House Budget Committee Mark Up of the Concurrent Resolution on the Budget for FY 2017. Below are his remarks:

"Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Last night we saw Donald Trump continue his march to be the standard bearer of the Republican party running a divisive, ugly campaign, pitting one American against another. And we had been told by Speaker Ryan that this Congress was going to provide a counterweight to that kind of division, to put forward a vision of the country coming together.

"But Mr. Chairman, this is a budget that divides Americans. It divides Americans because it continues to provide great benefits to folks who are already doing very well in America. It divides Americans because if you're at the very top of that economic ladder, if you're at the top one percent, this is a great budget for you. But if you're anybody else – if you're a struggling working family, if you're a senior on Medicare, if you're a student trying to go to college and come out debt-free – this budget hits you squarely between the eyes.

"And so it's another budget that helps those who are doing just fine, thank you, at the expense of everybody else in America. It's based on a continued failed theory of trickle-down economics. The idea is that so long as people at the top get tax breaks, that it will somehow lift everybody else up. What we've seen - and the record is pretty clear – is that it has not lifted all boats. It has lifted only the yachts, Mr. Chairman.

"I'm also very troubled by how we got here. You said we wanted a ‘healthy and functioning budget process.'

"But this year marks the first time in 40 years of bipartisan budget process that this Committee has refused to hear from the President's representative. That had been a bipartisan tradition, whether you had a Democratic President or a Republican President, a Democratically controlled House of Representatives or Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

"We're here today, Mr. Chairman. We think this budget is bad for America, and we'll talk about that today. We think we have a positive vision for America. But we're here. We're not running out the door. We're not refusing to listen. And I do think this Committee has to be ashamed that we, this year, for the first time, broke with that bipartisan tradition.

"It's also troubling that we're only here because of the deal that was made for the Tea Party caucus to use the other committees to make significant reductions in important investments in this country.

"So for example, the Ways and Means Committee is eliminating the Social Service Block Grant. The Social Service Block Grant – half of that money goes to vulnerable kids, and half of that goes to vulnerable [adults]. It includes things like the Meals on Wheels program. It includes things like child protective services. And the great irony is that Chairman Ryan, when he talked about trying to help people who are struggling and poor families, he talked about programs that provide local flexibility. That's exactly what the Social Services Block Grant does – it's a block grant. It provides flexibility.

"We have always worried on the Democratic side that once you block-grant programs, that you'll then eliminate them. And guess what – that's exactly what you've done here with the Social Services Block Grant.  Your proposals in the Ways and Means Committee are going to hit child tax credits for three million kids from working families. So that's, I guess, the price that was paid in the Republican caucus to even gather here this morning.

"Now let's look at this budget that's before us right now. As I said, it doesn't close a single tax break to reduce the deficit. If you're a hedge fund manager, you continue to get a better tax rate than school bus drivers and people who are working out there every day. It doesn't touch the corporate jet tax break. It doesn't deal with the issue of American corporations that are moving their address oversees to escape their responsibilities here at home. It doesn't touch them to reduce the deficit.

"Who does it come after? It cuts Medicaid by $1 trillion. Two-thirds of that goes to seniors and people with disabilities. Two-thirds of those funds.

"It cuts Medicare by $450 billion. Seniors will have to go back to paying co-pays for preventive services. It reopens the prescription drug donut hole.

"And then on the discretionary side – you keep saying we've got to look at the other side of the budget, but on the discretionary side – starting in 2018, it dramatically disinvests in America. It doubles the size of the sequester cuts next year. The Chairman of the Republican Appropriations Committee right here in the House has said that current levels are unsustainable, and yet this doubles the sequester cuts next year. And by the way, 10 years out, [almost] five times the size of the sequester cuts. Disinvesting in innovation and science and research. Disinvesting in early education. Disinvesting in programs for transportation when we need to be modernizing our infrastructure to compete globally.

"So make no mistake, Mr. Chairman. What this is is another budget that is great for folks at the very top of the income ladder, but at the expense of everybody else in America and at the expense of our competitiveness.

"And I'll close with this – even after all that, once again, it doesn't balance. It's based on gimmicks. It would make the Enron accountants blush. You continue to keep all of the revenues from the Affordable Care Act in this budget while you claim, and they're telling your folks, that you're repealing the Affordable Care Act. It just doesn't square. So once again, not a single tax break for special interests is closed to help reduce the deficit. Everybody else in the country pays the price for a budget that only rhetorically balances.

"We're looking forward to the debate, Mr. Chairman. At least we're here. At least we're willing to listen. And it is really unfortunate that for the first time in 40 years, the Republicans decided not to allow the President's representative to be right here in this Committee. I don't know what everyone was afraid of listening to, but we're here to have this debate today.

"Thank you Mr. Chairman."