House Budget Committee Markup: Budget-Process-Reform Bills

Chairman Paul Ryan: Opening Remarks, as Prepared for Delivery

Welcome, everybody. I want to start by thanking the members of this committee—especially Vice Chairman Price and Congressman Woodall. They wrote the bills we’re considering today: the Baseline Reform Act and the Pro-Growth Budgeting Act. They may sound a little technical. But the idea behind them is pretty simple. There’s a bias toward spending money in Washington. It’s built into the very tools we use to write our laws. These bills would remove that bias. And they have my full support.

Let’s take them one by one. First, there’s the Baseline Reform Act—introduced by Congressman Woodall. It would fix a quirk in our budget process. Under current law, the baseline assumes every discretionary account gets an increase every year to keep up with inflation. It assumes that increase, regardless of the facts on the ground. There’s no consideration of whether a program is working or not—or even whether a program is still necessary.

We should write the federal budget the same way a family writes its own budget. You don’t assume you will spend more on the same item every year—because things change. Maybe you start a new mortgage. Maybe you pay off your car loan. And when things change, you adjust your budget accordingly. Well, it’s our job to make those decisions—to set priorities and to assess the results. We shouldn’t hand over the job to some mathematical formula.

Second, there’s the Pro-Growth Budgeting Act—introduced by Vice Chairman Price. It would help members understand how legislation affects the economy. Under current law, CBO doesn’t provide that kind of big-picture analysis. In fact, it assumes the economy will stay exactly the same—no matter how much the government taxes or spends. But we know that isn’t true. People respond to incentives. Federal policy alters the economy. Members need a sense of that. They need to know what the world might look like under a new law.

It’s common sense to ask how legislation will affect the economy. And this bill requires CBO to give members just such an estimate. But I want to make something clear. We’re not saying CBO shouldn’t use the old method. We’re not saying it should use only the new method. We’re saying it should use both. We’re adding to the tool kit. We’re not taking anything away.

These bills would change the focus in Washington. Right now, we focus on how much we spend—not how well we’re spending it. And we just assume legislation won’t affect the economy—when we know, in fact, it will. These bills would address these short-comings. So I want to commend Vice Chairman Price and Congressman Woodall for their hard work. And I want to ask every member of this committee for their support.

With that, I yield to the ranking member, Mr. Van Hollen.