Ranking Member Paul Ryan Opening Statement

Full Committee Hearing: The Administration’s Expedited Rescission Proposal

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for scheduling this important hearing.  And thank you Mr. Liebman, for testifying before us on this issue. 

Four years ago, I introduced a constitutional version of the line item veto – a bill we passed in the House with bipartisan support.  At the beginning of the year, when the President visited the House Republican Conference in Baltimore, I asked for his support for a line item veto, and four months later I am glad to see that he has taken me up on the idea.

If we actually enacted a line item veto it could be a useful tool to eliminate wasteful spending and devote those savings to deficit reduction.   In that spirit, I have two specific concerns with the Administration’s proposal.  

First, savings from the line item veto should be directed solely toward deficit reduction. As it stands, the measure would simply result in the Administration using this tool to fund its priorities; it wouldn’t save taxpayers a dime.

A second problem is that this proposal does nothing to address new entitlement spending or special interest tax breaks.  Both were subject to the legislative line-item veto that the House passed 4 years ago, and both would make this a stronger tool.

But I have a much deeper concern with the context of this recommendation. 

The President and this Democratic Congress have increased spending by $1.8 trillion.  They passed a so-called “stimulus” bill with a price tag that has grown to $862 billion and has failed to hold down unemployment as promised.  And, they twisted the budget reconciliation process to force through a government takeover of the U.S. health care sector.   

The Majority likes to tout its pay-as-you-go rule, but in practice – with all due respect – it is a complete sham.  Take the recent so-called “extenders” bill.  According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, this bill would increase the deficit by $54 billion.  Through the magic of the Majority’s pay-as-you-go accounting, it’s recorded as reducing the deficit by $887 million dollars.     

The President’s budget we’re operating on drives debt held by the public to an alarming 90 percent of GDP in 10 years – but neither he nor the Democratic Majority have offered any specific proposals to tackle the problem; and it appears increasingly likely that, for the first time since adoption of the Budget Act, the House will fail even to bring a budget resolution to the floor.

What kind of message does this send to American taxpayers, and to financial markets around the world?

Rather than bring some real discipline to spending, the Administration and this Congress have instead opted to budget by press release.  Empty rhetoric on fiscal responsibility, with no results, no restraints, and no concrete steps taken to chart a new fiscal course.

The Administration recently asked agency heads to submit proposals for a possible 5-percent reduction in spending next year – after they’ve received an 84% increase. 

This makes me more than a little skeptical of the sincerity about getting spending under control.

The President could, right now, send us proposed spending cuts under their existing rescission authority.  In fact, Republican leaders John Boehner and Eric Cantor promised the President support for bringing these cuts to the floor.  Even if the President were serious about reducing spending, he faces a Democratic Congress that has shown zero interest in reducing spending.    

Despite my strong support for a constitutional line item veto, much needed process reform is no substitute for actual spending restraint; and all the press releases, hearings, and Washington talk  won’t mean anything if the President and Congress don’t have the will to actually reduce spending.

I look forward to your testimony, Mr. Liebman.