House Budget Committee Hearing: The Broken Budget Process: Legislative Proposals

Chairman Paul Ryan – Opening Remarks, As Prepared for Delivery

Welcome all to the House Budget Committee.

The purpose of today’s hearing is to examine the need to restore responsibility and accountability to how Washington spends taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars.

The breakdown of responsible budgeting is clear: out-of-control government spending; four consecutive trillion-dollar deficits; and a crushing burden of debt in the years ahead.

Both political parties share in the blame for our fiscal mess.

I believe it will require both political parties to work together to find common ground and right this fiscal ship.

Unfortunately, the current leaders in the Democrat-controlled Senate and at the White House have failed to step forward with solutions that match the magnitude of our challenges.

The United States Senate has failed to pass a budget in over three years. They didn’t even propose a budget this year or last. And the President has punted on the key economic and fiscal challenges of our time – with budgets calling for even more spending, higher taxes, and empty promises that are quickly becoming broken promises.

This failure of leadership not only undermines the America our children will inherit tomorrow, but it also stifles confidence and economic growth today.

While budget process reform alone cannot solve our budget problems, we can strengthen this process and provide additional tools to help address the enormous budget problems we face.  

This is a good step in the right direction, but budget process reform is not a substitute for the political courage and leadership required to address our core spending and entitlement challenges.

I don’t think there is any doubt about the failure of the federal budget process, but there are big differences of opinion on how to tackle these challenges.

Despite these differences, the ranking member and I were able to work – on a bipartisan basis – to report out of this committee and pass on the floor the Expedited Legislative Line-Item Veto and Rescissions Act. 

This Committee has also advanced the Baseline Reform Act, the Budget and Accounting Transparency Act, and the Pro-Growth Budgeting Act. Today, we continue the committee’s efforts to bring greater transparency to the budget process.

Mandatory spending – or autopilot spending –accounts for 60 percent of the federal budget. Through the Budget Control Act passed last summer, Congress has established statutory limits on discretionary spending with enforceable spending caps.

Implementing similar statutory controls on mandatory spending will help ensure the federal government can deliver on its promises – with sustainable entitlement programs and a sustainable fiscal future. To that end, Committee member John Campbell of California has introduced the Spending Control Act.

Another criticism of the budget process is the failure to account for the future consequences of today’s decisions. 

As we develop the budget and consider legislation, we currently focus solely on the 10-year window, not taking into account the long-term impact of current programs or proposed legislation.

This sole focus on the10-year window can also lead to accounting gimmicks that perversely worsen our long-term budget problems.  

We must improve the way Congress budgets in the long-term and better assess the long-term implications of its policies.

Mr. Mulvaney has introduced legislation to get the federal government to budget for the long-term and Mr. Chaffetz has introduced a bill to bring greater scrutiny to federal spending.   

In addition to these bills, Ms. Black has introduced legislation to give the budget the force of law, Mr. Ribble would reform the process to move to a biennial cycle, and Mr. Lankford would remove the threat of government shutdowns. 

So, just the members of this committee have put forward a robust set of proposals to reform and strengthen the budget process.

To help further advance this budget process reform conversation, we welcome three terrific witnesses to the committee today.

Doug Holtz-Eakin – a former CBO director, the current president of the American Action Forum, and an expert on the budget – is back with us today.

Alison Fraser is the Director of the Thomas A. Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies at the Heritage Foundation.

And Henry Aaron is a Senior Fellow of Economic Studies at the Brooking Institution.

All three bring expertise to inform this conversation. Thanks all of you for joining us today.

With that, I yield to the Ranking Member, Mr. Van Hollen.