WASHINGTON, D.C. – House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price, M.D. (GA-06) issued the following statement on the release of the House GOP’s Task Force on Tax Reform report:
“Americans are spending too much of their time and too much of their money trying to make sense of the nation’s tax code. It is a burdensome mess holding back our economy, weakening our competitive edge in the world, and making it harder for individuals, families, and businesses to succeed. Thankfully, the Task Force on Tax Reform has put forward a serious proposal that should help us achieve the type of consensus we need to move a tax reform effort forward in a constructive manner. At the same time, it recognizes that the IRS as we know it has lost the trust of the American people and needs to be overhauled, broken down, and rebuilt so it is focused on a narrower mission.
“House Republicans have championed fundamental tax reform for many years – specifically a call for an overhaul of the current system in our annual budgets. We understand that we will not solve our nation’s serious fiscal challenges without having a healthier economy where more folks can get ahead. One of the best ways to make our economy stronger is to have a tax code that is simpler and fairer for all, and where Washington is no longer picking winners and losers. Fixing the tax code will incentivize job creation and investment, produce higher wages and more opportunity for hardworking Americans.”
WASHINGTON, D.C. – House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price, M.D. (GA-06) issued the following statement in response to the latest Medicare and Social Security trustees reports. According to the Trustees, Medicare's hospital insurance trust fund is expected to be insolvent in 2028 – two years earlier than previously estimated. Social Security will exhaust its reserves in 2034 after which the program will be able to pay only about three-quarters of scheduled benefits.
“The trustees have sent another wake-up call to Congress to get serious about reforming these critical programs. The health and retirement security of millions of Americans are in jeopardy, and yet the president and Democrats are happy to ignore this predictable crisis and impede any efforts to avoid it. They are putting American seniors at risk and our nation’s fiscal and economic future at risk. While President Obama and Democrats in Washington are willing to walk away from their responsibilities and leave the next generation to clean up the mess, House Republicans and the House Budget Committee are not.
“We understand what is at stake, and that is why we have consistently included positive solutions in our budget resolutions that would provide seniors with more choices when it comes to Medicare while protecting and preserving the program. Additionally, we encourage Congress and the president to begin the process of improving Social Security so we can ensure its long-term solvency. Through the committee’s Restoring the Trust for All Generations initiative we are further raising awareness about the fiscal and policy challenges inherent in these programs, and the unique impact they have on Americans in every stage of life. We must build a critical mass of support across this country and in Congress to take action and make improvements before time runs out.”
As Prepared for Delivery
Over the past several weeks, this committee has held hearings focused on different aspects of our effort to reform the Congressional budget process. Budget enforcement – the subject of today’s hearing – has been a part of the discussion from the very beginning. And the reason is obvious. A budget that is not enforced – is not effective. Moreover, the budget process Congress ultimately adopts will only be successful if Congress is willing to enforce the budgets it approves.
This is a two part discussion. We must determine what rules and limits we believe are reasonable and worth adopting and maintaining. At the same time, we have to determine how we will force Congress – through both Republican and Democratic leadership – to abide by those rules and limits.
The current process is not without enforcement mechanisms. You could even argue they are too numerous to be actually effective or, at the very least, too confusing and disjointed. At the congressional level, we have the Congressional Budget Act itself which prescribes certain enforcement tools. We have the annual budget resolution that when adopted provides for additional enforcement measures. And, we have the rules of the House that members vote on each Congress. In law, there is PAYGO – which has the unfortunate effect of making current debt or deficit levels seem ok so long as we don’t add to them – and the current Budget Control Act caps on discretionary spending coupled with sequestration which have proven to be problematic in their own right – each trading thoughtful budgeting and prioritization for across the board cuts that treat almost all government spending as equal and worthwhile.
One of the more troubling aspects of the current budget enforcement environment is how easy it is to waive budget protocols – often with little or no recognition that Congress is agreeing to violate its own rules. This is a chronic problem, and it undermines the integrity of the process as a whole. While we can all imagine instances where it might be reasonable to expect Congress might need flexibility to temporarily forgo certain restrictions, we all should be able to agree that it should be a lot harder and less convenient than it currently is for Congress to break its own rules.
In the absence of a truly effective budget enforcement system, Congress has spent decades adopting, and often discarding, various avenues to control spending. Whether it be a “super committee,” the occasional attempts at a “grand bargain,” continuing resolutions in lieu of the regular appropriations process, or the aforementioned sequestration – to name just a few – Congress has tried and largely failed to create consistency and coherency in its budget enforcement efforts.
What is worse, too often policymakers have sought to ship the responsibility for enforcing spending discipline to the Washington regulatory regime. Nowhere has this been more prevalent than in the mandatory spending side of the ledger – namely the Medicare program. You’ll remember the now discarded Sustainable Growth Rate formula that was meant to tamp down the growth in federal health care spending but instead simply succeeded in threatening access to healthcare for America’s seniors. Thanks to current healthcare law, we currently have the Independent Payment Advisory Board, or IPAB, a board of unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats tasked with saving money by denying payment for and thus access to health care services for beneficiaries.
If Congress is willing to have a rational and realistic conversation about the nation’s fiscal challenges, there is no need to hand over control of tough decision-making to regulators. In fact, that sort of structure only weakens Congress’ power of the purse – as prescribed by our Constitution – and it diminishes the role of the budget in the broader legislative process.
Ultimately, to strengthen our budget enforcement, we must streamline and make coherent the rules by which we choose to govern our fiscal well-being. We need to make a violation of those rules – whether or not it is the will of a majority of Congress – more obvious so policymakers may hold themselves accountable and be held accountable by the American people. Such a structure would hopefully make a waiver of our rules the exception and not the norm – as currently exists.
To discuss where we go from here, we have as our witnesses today William Hoagland, Senior Vice President at the Bipartisan Policy Center; Barry Anderson, an independent consultant; and Richard Kogan, Senior Fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
Thank you all for being a part of this conversation. We welcome you and look forward to hearing your thoughts on how Congress can enhance enforcement of our budget process.
And with that, I yield to the Ranking Member, Mr. Van Hollen.Read More
WASHINGTON—House Republicans today unveiled a plan to replace Obamacare. It is our vision for a Confident America in which every American has access to quality, affordable health care. This is the fifth plank of A Better Way, a bold agenda to tackle some of our country’s biggest challenges.
Our plan—available now at better.gop—offers a better way to fix health care, including:
Task Force on Health Care Reform. Later today at AEI, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) will talk about these ideas alongside members of the Task Force on Health Care Reform, which includes: Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price (R-GA), Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN), Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), and Ways & Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX).
About A Better Way. A Better Way is a bold policy agenda to address some of the country’s biggest challenges. It takes our timeless principles—liberty, free enterprise, consent of the governed—and applies them to the problems of our time. Developed with input from around the country, it starts the debate now on what we can achieve in 2017 and beyond. It is our vision for a Confident America, at home and abroad. Now we are taking these ideas to the people, so you have a clear choice about the direction of the country. Previously released plans include:
WASHINGTON, DC – House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price, M.D. (GA-06) issued the following statement on the release of the House GOP’s Task Force on Restoring Constitutional Authority report:
“The decline in respect for the balance of power our Founding Fathers envisioned has contributed greatly to the dysfunction in Washington and the growth in government intrusion into our daily lives. Nowhere is this more evident than the Obama Administration’s actions of the past eight years which have exhibited an outright hostility to the limits our Constitution places on the executive branch. This task force report provides a strategy for restoring the balance of power and reaffirming the principles of limited government and accountability – both of which will also help protect those powers reserved for the states. For Congress’ part, we have to reclaim the authority entrusted to us by the Constitution and nowhere is that authority more potent than through the power of the purse. Through our efforts to reform the Congressional budget process, the House Budget Committee is working to revive and strengthen the power of the purse. A successful budget process is fundamental to effective, efficient, and accountable governing.”
As Prepared for Delivery
The focus of today’s hearing is on the need for Congress to establish fiscal goals to drive discipline and accountability in the budgeting process. In short, it is about building consensus. Policymakers and the public at large need to reach consensus on a standard or set of standards against which we will measure our level of fiscal responsibility. Without such consensus, we lack a sound foundation upon which to build an effective budget process. We will be destined to budgeting through trial and error – a particularly daunting prospect for a nation $19 trillion in debt with an annual operating budget of nearly $4 trillion.
From the beginning of this effort to reform the Congressional budget process, I’ve tried to stress that this should be a bipartisan project. We all have a vested interest in a well-functioning budget process. Establishing and codifying a set of fiscal goals should help there be bipartisan success in this endeavor. After all, if we can agree on where we aim to go from a fiscal perspective, we already have something in common – even if there are real and meaningful disagreements about how we get there.
For most of our nation’s early history, balancing the budget in peacetime was the consensus, the norm. It was a common sense position that you do not spend more than you take in. In fact, during our country’s first 100 years, the budget was balanced 70 percent of the time and most deficits were short-lived during wars. Since World War II, the budget has been balanced only 15 percent of the years. $19 trillion in debt is clear evidence that this standard is one the country has too often failed to follow. In the absence of adherence to a balanced budget, however, there has yet to emerge a benchmark that achieves a consensus among policymakers and the public.
Today’s hearing will examine whether we should seek to re-establish a simple balanced budget standard, modify that standard to reflect different budgeting priorities, or choose a different fiscal goal altogether. There are a variety of potential fiscal goals that could be under consideration – including a balanced budget that would ensure the annual operating expenditures of the federal government do not exceed revenues while still allowing for borrowing to fund capital investments.
Other ideas include determining what is a sustainable level of debt as it relates to the economy and the country’s ability to service that debt while maintaining flexibility to respond to the unforeseen; limits on the growth in spending to a level less than or certainly no faster than the growth in the economy; caps on discretionary and/or automatic spending; or some other goal that can secure the support and the trust of the American people.
Whatever benchmark the country adopts, the integrity of the standard will require defining the terms and enforcing the goals – remaining vigilant against attempts to re-classify spending in order to go over, under, and around enforcement mechanisms. In a dynamic, dangerous and complex world, there will naturally be exceptions made. But exceptions – by definition – must not become routine.
We establish goals in order to build and maintain consensus which is essential to effective governing and accountability. Goals also keep our eyes trained on the long-term challenges and consequences of policymaking. Short-sighted decision-making is far too common in this town. We need fiscal goals that will inform a budget process that – however we go about achieving those goals – puts the country on a sustainable path.
Our fiscal goals should serve a purpose beyond an accounting exercise. They should be supportive of a healthy economy and fair to current and future generations of taxpayers. They should also aid in promoting certainty – for policymakers, taxpayers, business, individuals and families.
To help illuminate and inform this discussion, we have with us today Douglas Holtz-Eakin, President of the American Action Forum; Maya MacGuineas, President of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget; and Harry Stein, Director of Fiscal Policy at the Center for American Progress.
Thank you all for being here. You bring a wealth of knowledge about these issues, and we look forward to your testimony and discussion to follow.
And with that, I yield to the acting Ranking Member, Mr. Yarmuth.
During a House Budget Committee hearing today on “The Need for Fiscal Goals,” witnesses Douglas Holtz-Eakin and Maya MacGuineas delineated the challenges policymakers face when trying to tackle the nation’s long-term fiscal challenges. MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, outlined the “built-in growth” in our nation’s finances that make even slowing such growth difficult:
“We have so much built-in growth in our budget, and that is where the bulk of the problem lies. And as a result, when we want to slow the growth of something – even so it is still growing faster than the economy – it’s called cutting spending, and it becomes very difficult to do.”
Holtz-Eakin, former CBO director and president of the American Action Forum, noted how automatic, or mandatory, spending is “crowding out” resources for other priorities – specifically those priorities which our nation’s founders actually envisioned as the role of our government:
“No budget process can be perfect, but you should budget for the problem you have. The problem the federal budget has is mandatory spending, and it is one thing to worry about the mismatch at the topline and the revenues. It’s just as important to recognize that the rise in mandatory spending is crowding out the annual discretionary accounts that contain national security, basic infrastructure, education, research, all the things that our founders saw as the role of government are now imperiled in a budgetary sense. I think that’s what you should focus on getting a handle on.”Read More
WASHINGTON, D.C. – House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price, M.D. (GA-06) issued the following statement today after the House GOP’s Task Force on Reducing Regulatory Burdens issued its report:
“At $1.9 trillion, the annual regulatory burden in this country is greater than the income tax burden and roughly equivalent to half of what the federal government spent last year. The regulatory regime in Washington effectively functions as a 4th branch of government, and the current administration has been particularly shameless in abusing regulatory authority to try to implement an agenda against the will of the American people. The Task Force on Reducing Regulatory Burdens has produced a plan to put the interests of the American people above those of the Washington bureaucracy. When it comes to American energy, education, financial independence, innovation, and more, this plan promotes a healthier economy and more opportunity.
“Among the many positive solutions in the report is the idea of regulatory budgeting. The House Budget Committee has championed regulatory budgeting both in our budget resolution and as part of our ongoing effort to improve the Congressional budget process. Greater transparency means greater accountability. Giving policymakers tools to account for the cost and to rein in the proliferation of harmful rules and regulations will empower the American people while still ensuring responsible protections for the health of our citizens, our economy, and our environment.”Read More
As Prepared for Delivery
Last week this committee examined the Constitutional justification for an overhaul of the Congressional budget process. We meet today to dive deeper into the specific areas where the failures of the current process and Congress’ failure to adhere to a process are manifesting themselves – specifically in the proliferation of automatic spending and unauthorized programs.
The purpose of today’s hearing is not to determine whether or not the current trajectory of automatic spending under current policies is unsustainable. It is. CBO and the actuaries confirm that we cannot continue down the current path we are on and expect that vital programs like Medicare and Social Security will be able to keep the promises made to today’s beneficiaries and future generations.
Our effort here today is to determine what changes ought to be made to the budget process that will both empower and compel policymakers to make responsible decisions. We must be ever cognizant of the fact that we do not operate within a vacuum and these questions and discussions are not simply hypothetical – certainly not to the millions of Americans who are relying on these programs for their health care or retirement and economic security.
So there is a moral obligation we have to those we represent to make sure we are addressing the fiscal challenges inherent in a number of automatic spending programs. No American should be threatened by a failing system, and all Americans would benefit from more efficient, effective, and accountable policies. There is also an obligation to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars. And also frankly, bring down the debt so future taxpayers, the children of today and tomorrow, are not saddled with this unsustainable debt problem.
The Budget Committee is always examining ways that Congress can hold ourselves more accountable for the money we spend. For anyone that comes into my office to meet with me, I have a debt clock that is counting upwards the total national debt. While some of that increase comes from money appropriated every year through the power of the purse, nearly two-thirds of that spending comes from programs that receive funding automatically.
Such spending is created through authorization bills that order money to be spent by the government each year with little to no proper oversight by Congress. Congress cannot reduce the funding for these programs without changing the authorization law itself. Next year, fiscal year 2017, mandatory spending is estimated to be $2.9 trillion, which is $151 billion higher than this year. And this spending increase will happen automatically without a vote by this Congress.
Unless Congress makes real structural improvements to many of the programs on the automatic side of the budget, we are faced with two choices to come up with funding for current policies. We can either reduce spending further on discretionary programs like infrastructure, education, child nutrition, medical research and national defense, which already represent a shrinking portion of the federal budget, or we can continue to rob future generations, our kids and grandkids, by continuing to borrow and grow our national debt. The first choice will not solve our fiscal challenges and the second choice is unfair.
We will certainly not solve these challenges by radically expanding existing automatic spending programs – as some still suggest – nor will we solve it by tax hikes or even tax reform. Cleaning up our tax code is important for our economy and for opportunity for individuals, families and businesses. And a healthier economy will help improve our fiscal well-being. But, we have a spending-driven debt crisis, and we will not get our nation’s fiscal house in order by taking more money from American taxpayers.
This hearing will also look at unauthorized programs that Congress continues to fund through the appropriations process. According to the Congressional Budget Office, in fiscal year 2016, Congress appropriated $310 billion for 256 programs that either had no authorization or whose authorization of appropriations had expired. This is up from $294 billion in fiscal year 2015. Several large agencies have expired authorizations, including the National Institutes of Health, the National Aeronautical and Space Agency, the Federal Election Commission, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Many of the agencies and programs that are operating under expired authorizations serve important purposes. But there is no reason so many government functions should operate without a current authorization by Congress.
I want to thank our panel of witnesses for appearing before the committee today. We have the Honorable David Walker, Former Comptroller General of the United States; Stuart Butler, Senior Fellow in Economic Studies at The Brookings Institute; and Lily Batchelder, Professor of Law and Public Policy at NYU’s School of Law.
If Congress is ever going to reclaim the power of the purse, we need to practice more robust oversight, be mindful of and willing to address the fiscal challenges inherent in many current programs, and cautious of the creation of new programs at a time when Congress needs to rein in spending. We need a budget process that supports those goals.
Thank you all for being here today, and with that I yield to the acting Ranking Member, Mr. Yarmuth.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price, M.D. (GA-06) issued the following statement on today’s release of the report from the House GOP’s Task Force on National Security:
“By employing a dangerous lead-from-behind approach, the Obama Administration has spent the past eight years trying and failing to catch up to a complex and constantly evolving foreign policy and national security environment. The Task Force on National Security should be commended for producing a report that shows a clear commitment from House Republicans to change course and improve America’s security and credibility with a proactive strategy to protect our homeland, secure our borders, defend against rogue regimes, and defeat radical Islamic terrorism. Such a strategy will require resources to ensure we have the tools and the trained personnel to carry out the missions of our military, intelligence, and homeland security communities. The House Budget Committee is committed to being an active partner in ensuring we first set a strategy for the safety and security of our nation and then provide the resources necessary to carry out that strategy. Also critical to that effort will be robust oversight of national security activities and expenditures as well as the care of our veterans to ensure the most effective, efficient, and accountable use of resources in service to those who courageously serve our nation.”Read More
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