April 29, 2021

Smith Opening Statement: House Budget Committee Hearing on “Protecting our Democracy: Reasserting Congress’ Power of the Purse”

As Prepared for Delivery

Mr. Chairman – thank you for convening this hearing.

It could not be more relevant given the current state of Congress’ performance on budgeting and spending. It also could not be more necessary given the actions of President Biden when it comes to the crisis on our southern border, and specifically his decision to abandon construction of the border wall after Congress appropriated funding for it.

The President’s decision to withhold funding on the border wall along with other actions his Administration has taken have fueled a national security and humanitarian crisis at the southern border.

As the Chairman is aware, Republicans on this Committee have called for a hearing on what we view as an unlawful withholding of funding – particularly given this Committee’s stated oversight responsibilities.

I appreciate that the Chairman has chosen this Committee’s first hearing to focus on issues that are related to President Biden’s decision to freeze funding for the border wall. This is an opportunity to exercise much needed oversight.

Given the Chairman’s previous concerns with the actions of President Trump on spending appropriated funds, I look forward to his comments on President Biden’s decision to withhold funding since I would assume there would be similar concerns no matter who sits in the Oval Office.

I also look forward to hearing from our GAO witness about what that agency is doing as it relates to President Biden’s withholding of funding. Members from both the House and Senate have called on GAO to investigate this matter. Frankly, it is very concerning that such a request was needed given GAO’s very public interest in this issue area. One has to wonder why GAO was not on the case the day after President Biden abandoned construction of the wall.

I respect the fact that the Chairman will want to discuss the broader issue of Congress’ Article I authorities and the “power of the purse.” I welcome that discussion. Part of it should center around Congress’ own shortcomings in this matter, and its inability to follow or enforce its own rules, roles, and responsibilities when it comes to budgeting and spending taxpayer dollars.

Just look at the historical record:

  • Since 1977, there have been 20 government shutdowns, and Congress has had to enact 192 continuing resolutions – including 4 this fiscal year – because deadlines for completing regular appropriations bills have not been met.
  • Congress has failed to follow regular order – that is, passage of a budget resolution followed by 12 separate appropriations bills before the beginning of the fiscal year – every year since fiscal year 1995.
  • According to the Congressional Budget Office, 1,046 authorizations from 272 laws expired prior to the start of fiscal year 2020 and appropriations for fiscal year 2020 included $332 billion dollars attributable to expired authorizations.
As of right now, work on funding for the upcoming fiscal year – fiscal year 2022 – is not currently on track to look much different, given delays in the budget process on the part of Congress and the President. There is the growing likelihood Congress starts the fiscal year with another CR or massive omnibus spending bill.

In closing, we are holding this hearing on the 100th day of the Biden presidency – 100 days in which not only did the President withhold appropriated funds while fueling a crisis at our southern border, he also fired thousands of Americans by the stroke of a pen and has proposed or pursued policies that will destroy jobs, drive down wages, and drive up the cost of living for America’s working class.

I hope this Committee will, at the very least, continue to seek answers from the Administration on how it plans to budget for all the policies it has proposed.

Thank you, and I look forward to the testimony from today’s witnesses.