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Yarmuth Warns GOP Not to Turn Back the Clock On Progress in CBO Hearing

Feb 2, 2017

Washington, D.C.Today, Kentucky Congressman John Yarmuth, Ranking Member of the House Budget Committee, highlighted the importance of protecting the economic and health care gains made under President Obama at a hearing titled “The Congressional Budget Office’s Budget and Economic Outlook” with CBO Director Keith Hall. Yarmuth spoke out against the negative consequences of House Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, pass un-funded tax breaks for the rich, and block immigrants and refugees from entering our country.

Thank you, Chairman Black.  And thank you Director Hall for appearing before us today to outline CBO’s updated economic and budget outlook.

The long-term outlook remains troubling of course.  We are a few years away from an increase in federal deficits and debt driven by the increased health care and retirement costs of an older population. 
 
Your report outlines our circumstances as a new Administration takes office.  Total deficits over ten years are essentially the same as you projected in August.  You project this year’s deficit to be lower than last year’s.  And next year’s to be lower still.  And as your report says, “the economy is currently on solid ground.” 
 
That’s a much better starting point than President Obama faced eight years ago.  President Obama inherited an economy in free fall.  The country was in the midst of the deepest recession in generations, losing nearly 800,000 jobs per month.  In its January 2009 outlook, CBO was projecting a deficit of more than $1 trillion and the economy was projected to shrink by 2.2 percent.  That turned out to be optimistic. 
 
In contrast, President Trump is inheriting a healthy economy.  The economy has added 15.8 million private sector jobs since 2010.  The unemployment rate is less than half its 2009 peak and the budget deficit has fallen by more than $800 billion, a nearly two-thirds reduction as a share of the economy. 
 
This year’s CBO report projects that the economy will grow at a 2.3 percent rate. Job creation will also grow at a steady rate, and the deficit will shrink over the next two years.  
 
What a difference eight years makes.
 
President Obama’s economic agenda is also paying dividends on many other fronts.  Tens of millions of Americans now have the economic security that comes with having health coverage and are free from fears of an accident or illness sending them into bankruptcy.  The stock market has nearly tripled in value.  The auto industry has recovered from a near-death experience, manufacturing has added jobs for the first time since the 1990s, and wages have begun to grow at a healthy pace.  The financial industry is better capitalized and more secure, with stronger protections for consumers.  We have dramatically reduced our dependence on foreign oil and increased our production of renewable energy.  Housing prices have largely recovered, and millions of homeowners are no longer underwater on their mortgages.
 
I could go on and on and I should, because I know my colleagues on the other side of the aisle will present an alternative reality. 
 
I am dealing in facts. And the fact is this Congress and the new Trump Administration are getting ready to take our country down a far different path.
 
Republican Leadership is moving to repeal the Affordable Care Act with no plan to replace it.  32 million people will lose health coverage, premiums will double, and we will return to the days when insurance companies decide who lives and who dies.
 
House Republicans are planning deep tax cuts and a rollback of financial protections.  Recent Republican Presidents have tried this approach.  Each time, it resulted in skyrocketing deficits, a recession, and ultimately a financial crisis, the most recent of which brought our country to the brink of total collapse.  I was briefed by Paulson and Bernanke in 2008. I know how close our nation came to having the lights go out.  The American people cannot afford for us to make those same mistakes again. 
 
Finally, I want to raise the issue of immigration.  It has been heart-wrenching to see the immediate impact of the President’s Executive Order during the past week.  It is discouraging that the first immigration action of this White House separated families, vilified the innocent, and will fail to make our nation safer by every logical measure.
 
That being said, I was a member of the Gang of 8 in 2013.  Four Democrats and Four Republicans.  We drafted comprehensive immigration reform legislation that we were confident had the bipartisan votes to pass the House. The only thing missing was the political will of the Republican Leadership to bring it to the floor.
 
Beyond addressing humanitarian and security needs, CBO has repeatedly told us that comprehensive immigration reform would mean a larger economy and a smaller budget deficit.  It is my hope that my colleagues across the aisle will recognize these facts and enact the immigration reform we so desperately need.
 
We can’t solve the challenges we face as a nation, whether its immigration, health care, the economy, or passing a Congressional budget without acknowledging what got us here and continuing on that path. To return to where we were and abandon all the progress we have made would be devastating not just for American families today, but for generations to come.