Image for Chairman Black Opening Statement for FY 2018 Budget Markup

Chairman Black Opening Statement for FY 2018 Budget Markup

Remarks as prepared for delivery:

Good morning, and welcome to our markup of the fiscal year 2018 budget resolution.

Our budget is called Building a Better America, because we take real, tangible steps to balance the budget, build a stronger military, and support an economy that creates opportunity for all Americans.

In past years, our budget resolution was a vision document, but this year is different.

With the election of President Trump, our budget goes from being a vision document to being a governing document that outlines how we build a better America for our children and grandchildren.

The time for talking is over; now is the time for action.

When I came to Congress six years ago, I had three priorities: repeal and replace Obamacare, balance the budget, and reform our tax code.

This year we’ve already taken the largest step yet to accomplish the first of those priorities, and I was proud to sponsor the American Health Care Act to bring patient-centered reforms to our health care system.

This markup begins the process of tackling a balanced budget by 2027 and pro-growth tax reform.

Balancing the budget by 2027 is our top priority. Our national debt stands at $20 trillion, with $9 trillion added over just the last eight years.

Both parties in Washington have failed to abide by a simple principle that all American families and small businesses do – that we must live within our means.

The Congressional Budget Office and outside experts all agree: our current fiscal path is unsustainable.

As United States Comptroller General Gene Dodaro put it in a recent House Budget Committee hearing, “if we fail to get control of debt and deficits, we are putting our country at risk of a fiscal and economic crisis.”

Balancing the budget requires us to make tough choices, but the consequences of inaction far outweigh any political risks we may face.

Doing nothing and continuing the status quo of more spending and more debt jeopardizes this American experiment 250 years in the making.

The budget resolution before us takes real steps to put our country on a sound fiscal path that balances in ten years and will allow us to start paying down the national debt.

Building a Better America makes bold reforms to strengthen programs that our seniors and our most vulnerable citizens rely on and ensure that they can continue to serve them for generations to come.

While our budget includes reforms to discretionary spending, we also strongly believe that mandatory spending must be addressed in this budget resolution and in budget resolutions to come.

Mandatory spending is already more than two-thirds of all federal spending, and that number will only continue to grow.

We address mandatory spending in two ways.

First, our budget outlines various reforms to mandatory spending programs that we believe reflect a responsible vision for reforming and saving these programs. These reforms would require further legislation and the political will to make the tough choices needed to benefit the American people.

Second, our budget includes reconciliation instructions requiring savings and reforms in mandatory spending programs. These savings would go toward deficit reduction and cannot be used to pay for tax reform.

Our reconciliation instructions require 11 Authorizing Committees to find a minimum of $203 billion in savings and reforms over the ten-year budget window, with an expectation that the reforms will result in significantly higher savings.

This package of mandatory reforms is the largest since the 1990s through reconciliation and it is a first step to change the culture of spending in Washington.

The goal of the Budget Committee is to return to the traditional budget process and the true purpose of reconciliation – deficit reduction through mandatory spending reforms.

This is a first step, but it is an important one.

Our budget also promotes tax and regulatory reform to get the federal government out of the way and allow our free-market economy to thrive.

The larger the government, the less freedom individuals and businesses have to thrive, grow, hire and innovate.

The Obama economy left millions of Americans behind, with over 14 million leaving the labor force in the last eight years.

Through reconciliation, our budget specifically paves the way for pro-growth tax reform that will be deficit neutral and independent of reconciliation instructions for mandatory savings and reforms.

This pro-growth reform will reduce tax rates, simplify the tax code and unleash the potential of the American economy to help those who have been left behind.

Many of our friends across the aisle and in the media have said that 1.9 percent economic growth is the new normal – that we are doomed to continue the economic stagnation of the Obama years.

They have a pessimistic view of our nation’s ability to create jobs and build a foundation of greater opportunity for all.

America has the greatest workers, the greatest innovators and the entrepreneurial ethos to far surpass the economic growth of the last eight years, if only the federal government would get out of their way.

We believe that the pro-growth policies recommended in our budget will result in higher economic growth – averaging 2.6% over the ten-year window – because we put our trust in the potential of the American people.

But a stronger economy is not enough; we must also strengthen our military.

The number one job of the federal government is to protect its citizens.

Over the last eight years, the weak foreign policy of President Obama has led to increased threats from all corners of the globe while the funding for our men and women in uniform has failed to keep pace.

Building a Better America invests $621.5 billion in our military and $75 billion specifically for the global war on terrorism for fiscal year 2018.

These resources will help our men and women in uniform complete the mission with which they have been tasked.

We also must rethink how government runs. We have to measure success in government not by how much money we put in, but by the results that are created for the American people.

We on the Budget Committee and in the full Congress have been tasked to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars.

As OMB Director Mulvaney outlined in our recent hearing, this means considering the interests not just of those receiving government benefits, but also of those paying the taxes that fund those benefits.

The Federal Government doesn’t just spend too much; it also simply does too much, as decade after decade the slow creep of government has encroached on the responsibilities of states, local governments, local communities, families and charitable organizations.

Returning power back to the states and other components of civil society will allow them to provide services more efficiently and effectively.

Our budget also takes serious steps to address improper payments, which the U.S. Government Accountability Office estimated at more than $140 billion last year alone.

Building a Better America presents us with an opportunity to change the trajectory of our country forever. The election of President Trump was a signal to all of us that the American people will no longer accept the status quo.

Taped to the back of my voting card is a picture of my six grandchildren. I was a nurse for 40 years – still have my license today. Government and public service was never an ambition of mine. But when I saw what was happening in my state and in this country, I couldn’t sit back and do nothing.

Every time I put my voting card into the slot, I’m reminded of why I left a career that I loved to join the political fray.

It’s for them. It’s for my children and grandchildren and for yours as well.

I grew up in an America where a poor girl, whose parents’ only ambition was for her to finish high school, could graduate college, become a nurse and eventually become a member of the United States House of Representatives.

I grew up in an America that was a land of opportunity, of strength and of compassion.

But that America is slipping away from us.

For too many young people in this country, the opportunity to live the American dream is out of reach. A government that was supposed to be of, by and for the people has left too many behind.

Building a better America requires a government that spends within its means; a military with the resources to complete the mission; an economy that creates opportunity for all; and a federal bureaucracy that respects the taxpayers.

But it also requires an understanding that the greatness of America does not lie in the grand buildings and stone pillars in Washington, D.C. The greatness of America lies in the spirit and tenacity of its people.

We designed Building a Better America to put this vision into practice, to empower individuals to live their version of the American Dream.

Future generations of Americans are counting on us, and failure is not an option.

I want to take this opportunity to thank the members of this committee for the hard work they’ve all done.

For months, we have worked tirelessly to come together and build a budget that reflects our principles.

It hasn’t been easy, but producing a budget that puts our vision for fiscal sanity into practice will be worth it and I thank each and every one of you for your hard work.

Again, I welcome everyone to our markup of the fiscal year 2018 budget resolution. And with that, I yield to the Ranking Member Mr. Yarmuth.