As Prepared for Delivery
Today, we are marking up the Fiscal Year 2017 budget resolution, A Balanced Budget for a Stronger America. This is a plan to get the nation’s fiscal house in order by balancing the budget within 10 years – a plan to empower the American people, hold Washington accountable to hard-working taxpayers, foster an environment for economic growth and opportunity, and ensure a strong national defense. We are presenting a vision that values outcomes over inputs; one that would send power back to the states, prioritize the responsibilities of the federal government – like national security – and save and strengthen those programs that are critical to the health, retirement, and economic security of millions of Americans.
This budget reflects the thoughts and concerns we hear from the American people who are understandably frustrated when they see their country careening down the wrong track. The solutions we are putting forward, when passed into law, would get our country moving in the right direction.
We will talk a lot today about specific numbers and policies, but it is important that we also take a moment to understand why we are debating a budget in the first place – to understand and appreciate the important role a healthy and functioning budget process plays in ensuring we have a healthy and functioning legislative body.
A budget ensures that Congress is fully and appropriately exercising its Constitutional duty. Article I gives Congress, not the Executive Branch, the power of the purse. It gives us the responsibility to practice oversight over the departments and agencies of the federal government in order to ensure the tax dollars of hard-working Americans are spent in an efficient, effective, and accountable manner.
A budget also allows Congress to lay forth a vision on how we would tackle – not just our short-term budgetary needs – but our long-term fiscal and economic challenges as well. And, how we would make improvements to save, strengthen and secure programs like Medicare and Medicaid that provide an important service to millions of our fellow Americans but which are currently on an unsustainable path and/or failing to deliver the benefit promised.
Congress must not cede even more power to the Executive Branch by forgoing our responsibility to budget. We also cannot surrender to the status quo and fail to act boldly when the times demand it and the American people demand it.
The bold solutions and commonsense ideas we outline in this budget will achieve $7 trillion in deficit reduction over the coming decade – through a combination of $6.5 trillion in savings coupled with greater economic growth. We do not and cannot achieve this level of savings and get to balance simply by focusing on the discretionary side of the ledger. Discretionary spending – that which Congress appropriates each year – makes up just one-third of the annual budget. The other two-thirds and growing side of the budget is automatic spending.
We spend a relatively large amount of time here in Congress arguing about that one-third and far too little time talking about how to address the unsustainable growth in automatic spending. The longer we wait to do something about that unsustainable trajectory, the worse fiscal shape we will be in. But, more importantly, the longer we ignore the insolvency of programs like Medicare, the bigger the threat to our fellow Americans.
Let’s be absolutely clear. The threat to seniors’ health care is not coming from those of us trying to save Medicare and provide more choices and higher quality. It is coming from those who are unwilling to do anything that can realistically secure and strengthen this program and many other programs like Medicaid and Social Security that are either failing those they serve or headed toward insolvency.
This budget shows a commitment to doing what is right, what is responsible to ensure a brighter future for all Americans. There are a myriad of other important solutions which I know other members will touch on throughout this mark-up – whether it be tax reform, health care reform, ensuring our brave men and women in uniform have the resources they need to defend this great nation.
Today, we’ll move forward with this common sense plan to increase economic growth and opportunity, hold Washington accountable, and keep our nation safe. I look forward to a robust debate.