House Budget Committee Hearing: Replacing the Sequester

Opening Remarks, As Prepared for Delivery

I want to thank our witnesses for appearing today to address the looming sequester that has been hanging over the nation’s fiscal debate since the enactment of the Budget Control Act in August of last year.

The 2013 sequester is a $109 billion across-the-board, inflexible, and arbitrary cut in spending that will occur under current law on January 2, 2013.

The 10% across-the-board cut in defense spending from the sequester would quote, “hollow out” our national defense. Those aren’t my words. That is how the Secretary of Defense describes it.

The 8% across-the-board cut in non-defense discretionary spending from the sequester would “inflict great damage on critical domestic priorities.” Those aren’t my words. Those words come from the President’s budget.

The only way to avoid these dire results is for Congress to pass and the President to sign new legislation.  This committee and this House have passed a budget that provides a plan for doing just that.

In the coming weeks, this committee and this House will continue to lead by proposing legislation that will achieve more than 100% of the savings the sequester would achieve while doing it in a responsible, priority-driven way rather than through the arbitrary, meat-ax approach that is the sequester.

We are joined today by Danny Werfel, the Controller and head of the Office of Federal Financial Management at the Office of Management and Budget.

Mr. Werfel, thank you for joining us today. We hope that your testimony will move beyond the vague generalities of the President’s budget and offer the specific proposals the President is making to avoid the consequences of the sequester.

We are also joined by Susan Poling, the Deputy General Counsel of the Government Accountability Office. Ms. Poling, we look forward to your testimony on the legal regime in which agencies are operating as they prepare for the possibility of the sequester.

Before turning it over to my friend, Mr. Van Hollen, I want to quote the White House Chief of Staff, who wrote in August of last year, quote, “make no mistake: the sequester is not meant to be policy.” 

Whatever the intention, the sequester will take effect, and we will see abrupt and indiscriminate cuts in government spending, unless we act. 

I do not believe this is in the national interest, and the President claims that he agrees. There is no reason why we cannot work together to replace the sequester. House Republicans are bringing specific proposals to the table and we invite the administration to do the same.

At this time, I ask unanimous consent to insert in the record a letter from the CBO Director cataloging recent work they have done with respect to the sequester. Without objection, so ordered.

With that, I recognize the ranking member, Mr. Van Hollen of Maryland for his opening statement.