October 19, 2023

Chairman Arrington Delivers Opening Statement at Hearing on Fiscal Commission

Today, House Budget Committee Chairman Jodey Arrington (R-TX) delivered the following opening remarks at the Committee’s hearing to examine the need for a fiscal commission. 

Watch the full hearing here.

Chairman Arrington’s remarks as prepared for delivery:

Good morning everyone.

Today we come together, not as Republicans or Democrats, but as concerned Americans devoted to finding solutions to the serious fiscal challenges facing our country.

As I’ve said before, our nation’s budgetary path is unsustainable, but not unfixable. 
Our unprecedented, almost incomprehensible $33 trillion-plus national debt has eclipsed the size of our economy – the largest in the world.

Over the next decade, according to the nonpartisan CBO, our annual deficits will double, our interest payments will triple, and for every dollar we borrow, 50 cents will go just to pay interest on this debt.
The only other time in American history that our debt-to-GDP ratio has been this high was in the aftermath of World War II.

President Reagan once said, “If history teaches anything, it teaches self-delusion in the face of unpleasant facts is folly.” 

Well, it would be a folly of epic, mind-numbing proportions to ignore our deteriorating fiscal state – this Sword of Damocles hanging over us, poised to trigger a sovereign debt crisis that would jeopardize not only our economy, but our national security, America’s leadership in the world, and our very way of life. 
A big part of our path forward has to be a bipartisan commission to get all sides together to address the insolvency of Social Security and Medicare and focus on the lion's share of the U.S. government's long-term unfunded liabilities, in a depoliticized and responsible way.

And to be truly set up for success, that commission has to be informed by sound ideas, insulated from political posturing, and invested in genuine consensus that leads to real accomplishments. 
Our hearing today will draw on lessons of the past in order to have better outcomes for the future. 
In his time, President Reagan had the wisdom and the foresight to establish a national commission–the Greenspan Commission–which led to a historic bipartisan plan enacted in 1983 to extend the solvency of Social Security. 

And in the 1990s, the Base Realignment and Closing Commission rationalized the distribution of our nation’s military installations.

Both of these commissions tackled previously unsolvable problems, offered solutions to these thorny challenges, and paved the way for generational achievements. 

How? What were the contours of their success? What was it about their structure, their membership, their mission, their leadership, and their resources that helped them build a constructive dialogue and get to yes? Those are the kinds of questions we want to explore today. 

On the other side of this coin, there have been several well-intended efforts that backfired or failed. 

The so-called “Super Committee” of 2011 did not reach bipartisan agreement and instead forced across the board spending reductions in some programs with little-to-no impact on securing long-term viability of important entitlement programs. 
So today, I want to have an honest discussion about lessons learned–the good, the bad, and the ugly. We need to watch the films on past commissions and determine what produced wins and what led to losses. 
By looking back in time, I want us to also be mindful of the future. 

This committee has put in the work to sound the alarm and speak plainly with the American people both about the path we are on and the courage it will take to change this current course.

Because unless we act, our children and grandchildren will reap a whirlwind of economic destruction. They will look at our generation and ask, “how could you have let this happen?”

We can’t let that happen.
I can tell you this much: I have absolutely no interest in making this an exercise where we talk in circles, stick to our unwavering partisan positions, and walk away without committing to real solutions. 

This is about saving our country. Ask yourself: what will future generations think of us? Are they going to look back and see that we met the moment, or that we failed them?

None of us can afford to get this wrong. Because then, all bets are off. 

With that, to get us started, we are pleased to have with us four veteran combatants of the budget battles over the past decade and more: 

Former Senator Rob Portman
Former Senator Kent Conrad
Former Budget Chairman John Yarmuth
Former Budget Chairman and current Appropriations Subcommittee Chair, Steve Womack.

Chairman Arrington Delivers Opening Statement at Hearing on Fiscal Commission