As Prepared for Delivery
After weeks of hard work, the House and Senate approved our respective budgets last month – both of which were balanced budget proposals. Now we are here to continue that work and find an agreement on a unified budget resolution.
I want to thank our colleagues in the House and Senate for their important work and dedication to this effort. Completing a budget is one of our core legislative responsibilities, yet Congress has gone without one for several years now. So I look forward to this opportunity to restore adherence to a process that will ensure Congress is fully embracing its power of the purse and legislating in an orderly manner that provides for the most transparency and accountability.
That being said, we all know that a budget is more than just a set of numbers. It is a reflection of our priorities, of our vision for the future. When done in a responsible way, it can provide a foundation for moving our country in the direction of more opportunity, economic growth and a safer and more secure nation. So we are not here today just to make the numbers add up – we are here to make the federal government more accountable to taxpayers and to achieve real results so that American families have the best chance of achieving their dreams for the future.
For years, failed policies coming out of Washington have been holding America back. Deficits remain in the hundreds of billions and are set to begin going even higher in the years to come. For millions of Americans, wages are stagnant and opportunity is scarce. In short, this has been the worst economic recovery in the modern era – and if we remain on our current course, the future does not look much brighter. In fact, the Congressional Budget Office has regularly revised its ten-year average economic growth projections down from 3.0 percent in its 2012 outlook to just 2.3 percent in its most recent outlook.
We need to turn the page on this new normal of anemic growth and embrace policies that will foster the growth of a healthier economy.
To start, that means a credible budget that balances, reforms key programs and eliminates waste and inefficiencies throughout the federal bureaucracy so taxpayer dollars are spent more wisely. To ensure Medicare, Medicaid, nutrition assistance and other similar programs are able to deliver on the promises made to the American people, they have to be solvent, they have to be targeted towards those who truly need assistance, and where appropriate, states and local communities ought to have more freedom and flexibility to administer these programs.
A balanced budget can be and ought to be achieved without raising taxes. Washington does not need to take more from hard-working Americans – it needs to start living within its means.
I’d remind my colleagues that every dollar that is taken for taxes and every dollar that Washington borrows is a dollar that cannot be used to pay the rent, to buy a car, to buy a home, to send a kid to college, to open a business or to expand a business and create jobs.
Instead of taking more to spend more in Washington, we should reform the tax code so it’s simpler, fairer and so American job creators are not disadvantaged in the global marketplace.
Fundamental tax reform would contribute to a healthier economy with more opportunity.
At the same time, we have to rid ourselves of Washington policies that are harming individuals, families and businesses – policies like Obamacare. Repealing the president’s health care law would pave the way to starting over on patient-centered health care reform – where patients, and families, and doctors are making medical decisions – not Washington, DC.
And while we are getting rid of what does not work, we have to be adequately supporting that which is vital to the success and security of our nation
That is why we must ensure our military men and women have the resources they need to carry out their missions and protect our country. Make no mistake, we must and we can provide robust funding for our troops, and do so in a way that is both fiscally responsible and reflective of the tremendous threats facing America, our allies and our interests around the world.
Because a budget is more than just a set of numbers, because it’s a vision for how we can achieve a stronger nation with more opportunity, we are obligated to take a hard look at the status quo and ask ourselves some pointed questions.
Do we want to have a nation where our fellow citizens can be trapped in a web of welfare programs that discourage self-sufficiency and instead shackle them to government dependency? Do we want our nation’s retirees to have a health care program that is going bankrupt and that without reforms will not keep its promises?
Do we want to continue to force low-income individuals and families into a Medicaid program in which access to actual care is limited, where doctors are grossly under-reimbursed and therefore unable to see and treat patients?
Should our college students face years of crippling debt because of a government-run student loan program that drives up tuitions?
We have to ask these questions and others. And, at the end of the day, because the answer to all of them ought to be “of course not,” we have to figure out the right policies so we leave our kids and grandkids a stronger nation – one that provides the greatest amount of opportunity, and the greatest amount of success, for the greatest number of people, so that the greatest number of American dreams may be realized – and doing so in a way that is fair and compassionate to all.
The current policies in Washington are not working. They have shown they cannot break the pattern of a growing debt, an underperforming economy and too many folks just struggling to get by.
The budget we will produce from these negotiations must respect the American people and respect the seriousness of the challenges we face so that we can provide positive alternatives, real solutions to achieve real results.
I want to thank Chairman Enzi and everyone serving on the committee for their hard work. I look forward to hearing the thoughts and ideas of my colleagues here and in the days to come.
We have a big job ahead of us to get this country back on track. Working together we will produce a budget and pursue policies that will build a stronger, more prosperous and more secure America.