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Yarmuth Opening Statement at Second CBO Oversight Hearing

Feb 6, 2018

Washington, D.C. – Kentucky Congressman John Yarmuth, Ranking Member of the House Budget Committee, gave the following opening statement at today’s CBO oversight hearing on economic assumptions, cost estimates, and baseline construction. Remarks as prepared are below:



I would like to join the Chairman in welcoming our three CBO witnesses today. Deputy Director Hadley, Associate Director Edelberg, and Associate Director Gullo, thank you for coming before the committee to testify and to answer our questions about how the Congressional Budget Office makes economic assumptions, constructs the baseline, and estimates the cost of our legislative proposals.

Last week, Director Hall testified before the Committee and that discussion touched on all of these subjects in varying degrees of detail. The take away from last week’s hearing was clear.  CBO has a regimented, well-documented, and consistent process to produce work that is accurate, fair, and nonpartisan. 

The budget analysts, policy experts and economists at CBO have a tremendous amount of experience and they are well-respected in their fields of expertise. They certainly could make more money working fewer hours in the private sector, but they choose to serve their country in this very important capacity.

I am not suggesting that there isn’t room for improvement at CBO, or that we all have to agree with every CBO conclusion.  Much of the public policy with which we are dealing is complicated, involving many variables and interactive effects.  CBO, rightfully, has to make assumptions and judgments, and we have the right to ask questions to better understand the conclusions they reach. 

What is not appropriate is to launch ad hominem attacks to undermine the credibility of CBO.  Last year, CBO was subjected to a number of vicious attacks purely for political purposes. These attacks weaken this institution and add to the dysfunction the American people overwhelmingly reject.

Mr. Chairman, I was heartened by the tenor of last week’s hearing.  On the whole, and as you encouraged, the questioning was respectful and members made genuine attempts to better understand how CBO operates.  Ideas were explored on ways to make improvement at the agency so that Congress can be better served.  I hope that continues with today’s hearing.

We are holding a total of five oversight hearings on CBO.  This is a tremendous amount of time that we are dedicating to one agency.  Mr. Chairman, I hope that we will be just as diligent in our other responsibilities and find time to hear from other agencies as well.  We haven’t had our customary annual hearing with the Federal Reserve Board Chairman since 2012.  We haven’t had the Treasury Secretary testify since 2013.  We haven’t had the Department of Defense testify since 2013.  We haven’t heard testimony from the Secretary of Health and Human Services since 2011.  It would be valuable to hear from these agencies and others as we consider priorities for the 2019 budget. 

I thank our witnesses for coming and I look forward to their testimony.