ICYMI: Rep. Estes Testifies at Rules Committee on Fiscal Responsibility Act
Today, Congressman Ron Estes (KS-04), delivered the following remarks (as prepared) at the House Rules Committee during consideration of The Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2023 (H.R. 3746).
Click here to watch his remarks.
"Chairman Cole, Ranking Member McGovern, Members of the Rules Committee. Thank you for allowing me to testify today in my capacity as a Member of the House Budget Committee.
"The Fiscal Responsibility Act is more than a bipartisan agreement – it’s a win for the American people that will start pushing back at the insatiable desire Washington has to spend other people’s money, and I hope my colleagues will join me in supporting it in the House.
"We are here today, just days before the federal government cannot pay all of its normal bills. The government hit the statutory debt limit of borrowing in January, and Treasury Secretary Yellen has been delaying some expenditures using “extraordinary measures.” This legislation would raise our ability to borrow funds for another two years and thereby avoid the damaging consequences of not paying our obligations.
"But as Speaker McCarthy, my Republican colleagues and I have said for months, we cannot just keep borrowing and spending without addressing the major drivers of our current fiscal mess.
"Like any family or individual that has gone into deep debt, the underlying causes need to be addressed before we raise the limit on our national credit card and just spend more without any change in behavior.
"That’s why Speaker McCarthy, on behalf of House Republicans, insisted on incorporating some fiscal reforms – as has often been done by previous Congresses in budget negotiations – as part of the debt limit increase.
"This bill begins that process.
"By putting enforceable spending caps in place for fiscal years ’24 and ’25, we will spend less money next fiscal year than we did this year.
"According to CBO this bill will reduce overall non-defense discretionary spending by $40 billion (or 5.4%) – the largest one-year reduction in non-defense spending ever.
"Spending on non-defense programs would be limited to $704 billion from last year’s level of $744 billion (dollars), and a reduction of $111 billion (dollars) compared to the CBO baseline, as well as $105 billion (dollars) below the president’s request.
"At the same time, this measure also funds defense at $886 billion (dollars) for FY 24 – a 3.3% increase over FY’23.
Economic Growth Measures
"In addition to limiting out of control spending, The Fiscal Responsibility Act also includes some critical economic growth measures.
"First, it will increase labor force participation by expanding work requirements for able bodied adults in the SNAP (food stamp) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) programs.
"These are two important reforms that will bring more workers into the labor force, but ensures that only those who can work – able bodied adults without dependents – are required to do so.
"The Fiscal Responsibility Act also includes much needed permitting reforms, which will help build infrastructure, produce more energy, create American jobs and reduce costs to consumers.
"Beyond discretionary spending controls and these important economic growth measures, there are other significant provisions in this bill that deserve highlighting.
"The Fiscal Responsibility Act finally ends the federal student loan moratorium and so called “interest pause”(effective August 31, 2023).
"For every month borrowers were allowed to skip payments, $4.3 billion (dollars) was added to the American taxpayers’ debt.
"Forty-one months later, the moratorium has cost the American taxpayers approximately $176 billion (dollars).
"The bill also rescinds nearly $28 billion (dollars) in unspent COVID funds. Republicans and Democrats now finally agree – the national emergency has ended and this funding is no longer necessary. These funds are not yet obligated, and they should be returned to their rightful owner – the taxpayer.
"The Fiscal Responsibility Act also requires the Executive Branch to offset any potential spending increases caused by Executive actions. This is an important new safeguard as the Biden Administration has increased spending by billions of dollars over the past two years with its Executive actions without congressional authorization. This action alone should be viewed as a major win for fiscal responsibility.
"Of course, this bill is not perfect. It does not address all of the things I and others wanted it to do. It is the product of hard-fought negotiations between Speaker McCarthy and President Biden. But when I look at the list of major wins for conservatives and the American people, it’s hard not to be excited that we’re finally reducing spending, encouraging work and reining in the Executive Branch. I’ve been fighting alongside all of you to change the culture of Washington since Kansans first sent me here six years ago, and this bill is another opportunity to make improvements. The alternative is much worse – a so-called clean debt ceiling that once again kicks our opportunity to bring fiscal responsibility to D.C. down the road. This is a great bill, and it lays the groundwork to continue making positive change that will benefit our country for generations to come.
"It should be noted that this is only a first step in correcting the financial mess we’re in. It took years to get to this point, and it won’t change overnight. I introduced an amendment in the last Congress to cut non-defense spending by a mere 1%, and it failed here in the Rules Committee. I’ll continue fighting for fiscal sanity, cutting wasteful spending and promoting economic growth. This is the start of changing the trajectory, and I look forward to working with you all to do even more in the future.
"I support the bill and I hope my colleagues do as well. I would be glad to answer any questions."