I want to start by thanking the members of this committee. This is our fourth budget in four years. Each one has been on time and in balance. And though we haven’t always agreed on every detail, we’ve worked through the tough issues on behalf of our constituents.
I also want to thank the ranking member, Mr. Van Hollen. I expect we’ll have a lot to talk about today. And we won’t always see eye to eye. But he and his staff have done their part to uphold this committee’s long tradition of bipartisan cooperation. Our debates have always been spirited but civil. So I want to thank them all as well.
Now, we passed the Bipartisan Budget Act just a few months ago. So some people might be wondering, “Why even do a budget?” Well, here’s how I see it: That agreement was the bare minimum. Before then, the Senate hadn’t passed a budget in nearly four years. Talks had broken down. So Senator Murray and I tried to change that. And we found some common ground: a modest, two-year agreement to fulfill our most basic responsibilities. We spared our military from arbitrary, across-the-board cuts. We returned the power of the purse to Congress. And we reduced the deficit—all without raising taxes.
So the agreement was a step in the right direction. But it didn’t go far enough. It didn’t do enough to address the driver of our debt: autopilot spending. And it didn’t do enough to get our economy growing again. Nearly five years after the recession, many families still haven’t recovered. Over the past five years, economic growth has consistently failed to meet expectations. In fact, the Congressional Budget Office has consistently lowered its economic forecast.
The budget and the economy are closely linked. Just as a weak economy can drag the budget into the red, a responsible budget can help propel the economy forward. So if Washington is serious about helping working families—or serious about getting families out of work back to work—then it needs to get serious about the national debt.
And if recent events are any indication, we also need to get serious about our national defense. The world has only gotten more dangerous. And yet the President wants to cut defense spending even further. Under his budget, the Army would shrink to pre–WWII levels, the Navy to pre–WWI levels, and the Air Force to its smallest size ever. Half the cruiser fleet would be in dry dock. We would retire both the A-10 and U-2. And we would have just ten carrier strike groups.
If we stay on the current path, we’ll put both our economy and our national security at risk. That’s why we wrote this budget—because we owe it to the country to lay out an alternative. We believe every person deserves a fair shot at a brighter future—everyone deserves an America that works. We owe the American people a responsible, balanced budget—because a balanced budget will expand opportunity by creating jobs and, by supporting our military, it will keep our country safe.
The President’s budget never balances—ever. Our budget, on the other hand, balances in ten years. And it puts us on the path to pay off our debt. How do we do it? We stop spending money we don’t have. We cut waste and make much-needed reforms to save $5.1 trillion over the next ten years. Our critics might call this steep. But look at it at this way: On the current path, the federal government will spend roughly $48 trillion over the next ten years. By contrast, this budget will spend nearly $43 trillion.
On the current path, spending will grow, on average, by 5.2 percent a year. Under our budget, spending will grow, on average, by 3.5 percent a year. Nearly $43 trillion is enough. Increasing spending by 3.5 percent instead of 5.2 percent is hardly draconian.
Under this plan, we will expand opportunity by growing the economy. We will provide families with a fair, simple tax code to boost wages and create jobs. We will restore fairness by cutting spending and combatting cronyism. We will strengthen the safety net and help people get back on their feet. And we will secure seniors’ retirement by strengthening Medicare and other vital programs.
I know our friends on the other side might dispute this point. But remember: It was Obamacare that ended Medicare as we know it. It was Obamacare that cut $700 billion from Medicare. It was Obamacare that set up a board of 15 unelected bureaucrats to ration care for seniors. And that’s why this budget will repeal Obamacare in its entirety. We will end the raid on Medicare. We will make no changes for those in or near retirement. And as for the next generation, they will get to choose from a number of plans—including a traditional Medicare option—so they can find a plan that works best for them. CBO says such an approach could lower costs both for taxpayers and for seniors. It’s a win-win.
Finally, this budget will protect our national security. It will provide our troops the training, equipment, and compensation they need.
The budget resolution rejects the President’s budget and adds $274 billion more to our military. Under our plan, the army will maintain its current strength. We will have eleven carriers and a full cruiser fleet. Key modernization programs—like the Joint Strike Fighter—will stay on track. And we will fully fund the President’s request for veterans’ affairs.
This budget will keep our national security strong—and make our economy even stronger. CBO says that the deficit reduction in this budget will produce stronger and stronger economic growth over time. By 2024, real economic output will be 1.8 percent higher than it otherwise would be—or about $1,100 per person. And that will continue to grow going forward.
After five years of big spending and little results, we think it’s irresponsible to take more from hardworking families to spend more in Washington. Every family must balance its budget. Washington should do the same. And with the right reforms in place, we can strengthen our national security, foster a healthier economy, create jobs, and raise take-home pay.
And with that, I’d like to recognize the ranking member for his opening remarks.