Committee on the Budget

Tom Price

Chairman Price Opening Statement: Hearing on First Principles of Congressional Budgeting

2015/07/28

As Prepared for Delivery

Good morning, everyone. Thank you for being here.
 
We called today’s hearing to discuss the Congressional budget process. I’d venture a guess that the American people are probably not all too familiar with the specifics of this issue. That’s understandable. But I believe – and this hearing will hopefully show – that the manner by which, and the rules under which, Congress puts together a budget are incredibly important to not only the fiscal health of our nation but the health and vitality of our Constitutional system.
 
The Congressional budget process is broken. It is outdated. It has been 40 years since the rules were written. Suffice to say, our world has changed dramatically. What has not changed, unfortunately, is the habit in Washington of spending beyond its means.
 
The current budget process is not only ill-equipped to help policymakers be more fiscally responsible – it reinforces bad spending habits. The default is always to spend more when we know that more money is not always or often the right solution.
 
The current budget process is also not particularly good at forcing Congress to do its job. This year was the first time since 2001 that the House and Senate had passed a joint 10-year balanced budget agreement. When Congress ignores its budget responsibilities, it is forfeiting the power of the purse – which we all know is not just about dollars and cents.
 
The Constitution gave Congress this authority so that the people’s elected representatives could hold government accountable – to ensure robust and legitimate oversight of the bureaucracy and, when necessary, eliminate ineffective and inefficient policies and programs. As Madison wrote: “this power of the purse may, in fact, be regarded as the most complete and effectual weapon with which any constitution can arm the immediate representatives of the people, for obtaining a redress of every grievance, and for carrying into effect every just and salutary measure.”
 
No one would argue that creating a budget is a simple task, especially when Washington spends three-and-a-half trillion dollars per year. We can make small changes here and there that will help enhance Congress’ authority in this area. But when dealing with a process that was created before a lot of the people in this room were even born, it’s time to start thinking about starting over. As former CBO Director Alice Rivlin said a few years ago: “The time for incremental reforms in the budget process is over. The Congress should blow it up and start over from first principles.”
 
What might those principles look like?
 
First, we should be exercising constitutional control. The Founding Fathers explicitly gave Congress the power of the purse and we need to have a better sense of respect for that duty when it comes to taxing and spending. This in turn will help correct the shift in balance of powers and help pull back the overreach of the Executive Branch – both Republican and Democrat.
 
Second, is promoting fiscal responsibility. As I mentioned at the beginning, the current process reinforces a bias toward higher spending without sufficient rules or guidelines in place to align spending with anything resembling a sustainable outlook. A smarter process would incentivize more responsible fiscal choices.
 
Third, we must increase our oversight. Waste, fraud and abuse exist all throughout the federal government. And too much spending is simply set on auto-pilot. We need to regularly review our spending habits so we can fix mistakes and make improvements where needed.
 
Fourth, and finally, we need a better understanding of how much programs cost. We need to continue to strengthen our non-partisan fiscal analysis to gain stronger insight into how policies affect the economy and the federal budget. With more information, Congress should be able to make better decisions.
 
A better budget process is achievable, and by adhering to common sense principles such as these, we can begin to spend tax dollars more effectively and efficiently.
 
That’s why it’s so important we are having this conversation today and I’m pleased to welcome our witnesses.
 
We have Paul Posner, the director of the graduate public administration program at George Mason University. David Primo, an associate professor at the University of Rochester and a senior scholar at the Mercatus Center at George Washington University. Phillip Joyce is a professor of public policy and senior associate dean at the University of Maryland’s school of public policy. And Carmel Martin, the executive vice president for policy at the Center for American Progress.
 
I want to thank you all for taking time out of your busy schedules to be here today. I look forward to an enlightening conversation about how we fix our congressional budget process and ensure hard-earned taxpayer dollars are spent in a more responsible and accountable manner.
 
Thank you.
 
I’m pleased to yield to the ranking member, Mr. van Hollen. Read More

Price Statement on Medicare and Social Security Trustees Reports

2015/07/22

WASHINGTON, D.C. - House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price, M.D. (GA-06) issued the following statement after the Medicare and Social Security Trustees released their annual reports:

“Medicare and Social Security are on an unsustainable course. Today’s Trustees reports have confirmed that fact once again. Those who are opposed to making serious reforms to save and strengthen these programs will look at today’s reports and do little or nothing. The rest of us ought to do what’s right and what’s responsible and that means building support for positive solutions to these challenges now, not decades from now. That’s why the House Budget Committee recently launched our Restoring the Trust initiative to raise awareness about the looming insolvency of these programs so that real reforms can be achieved sooner rather than later. Time in running out. The Disability Insurance program is slated to go insolvent next year.

“Americans understandably have lost confidence in their leaders to actually address these sorts of challenges in an open and honest manner. The best way to restore that trust is to take these Trustees reports seriously. We must build a consensus among policymakers and the American people for reforms that will save and secure Medicare and Social Security for all generations so that we protect the health and retirement security of millions of seniors now and in the years to come.” Read More

Chairman Price Calls for Restoring the Trust for All Generations

2015/07/15

Remarks as prepared for delivery

Thank you Doug Holtz-Eakin and the American Action Forum for the invitation to be here today and for putting this event together. To all of you in the audience and the panelists, thank you for your interest in this important debate and your willingness to be a part of it.

You don’t have to spend your spare time leafing through actuarial reports and Congressional Budget Office analyses –– in order to understand that our nation’s health and retirement programs – Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security – are in financial trouble. With 10,000 baby boomers reaching retirement age every day, the structure of these programs is simply unsustainable. This means they will not be sustained!

By the time a child born today is able to vote, the Social Security trust fund will be insolvent. When today’s preschooler enters college, the Medicare trust fund will be insolvent. When today’s Kindergartner enters the workforce, he or she will be required to finance nearly half a retiree’s Social Security and Medicare benefits all by themselves.

And then there’s Medicaid. In 2014, more than 45 million individuals relied on Medicaid or the State Children’s Health Insurance Program for their health care. But enrollment in Medicaid and SCHIP no longer guarantees access to the doctors or treatments folks need. In too many instances, it’s health coverage – without the health care.

When you add Obamacare to the entitlement mix, federal spending on health care alone – Medicare, Medicaid and the ACA – is projected to approach $2 trillion annually in the years to come. That will eat up a sizeable and growing portion of annual tax revenue – crowding out other necessary spending, including defense.

These are the facts, and there’s no way around them.

But, believe it or not, there are a good number of folks who say this isn’t a problem – at least, not an urgent one. They read the same reports. They can all do the math. But, for a whole host of reasons, they tend to do what’s comfortable right now, and has been public policy for years, which is to ignore the problem and downplay the consequences.

Or they say we just need to raise taxes to cover any funding gaps. Or borrow more money and mortgage our children’s future, throwing the burden to other generations.

But every dollar the government takes out of the pockets of hardworking Americans is money that is not available for a family to support a child’s education, to pay a mortgage, buy a new car, pay the rent, or take a family vacation. Every dollar the government borrows drains the pool of savings that would otherwise be available for investment in the long-term prosperity and economic opportunity of our nation. 

This harm to growth and job creation compounds the fiscal challenges in our health and retirement programs. Medicare and Social Security were never designed to shoulder the entire weight of an individual’s retirement. But in an unhealthy economy, individuals and families are less able to grow their own nest egg and are increasingly reliant on government assistance – which increases the burden on these programs.

This cycle of uncertainty and economic pain impacts all of us in one way or another. As Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security run toward insolvency, current seniors, future seniors, and the working families who pay for today’s benefits will face the consequences – that’s all of us.

Thankfully, this can be avoided, but only if there is a critical mass of support for reform. Whether or not we can achieve that critical mass is, at the moment, almost as important as the policies that might be adopted to put these programs on a path to solvency.

That is why we at the House Budget Committee are working on a project to shine a light on the need to ensure health and retirement security for today’s seniors and tomorrow’s retirees. Our goal is to restore the trust for all generations, by motivating our colleagues and the American people to get involved – to engage our fellow citizens in a discussion and build consensus toward positive solutions.

In typical budget fashion, we aim to put the nation on sound fiscal footing. That in and of itself is a tremendous challenge. However, we are not simply interested in just making the numbers on a page add up.

We want to restore the trust of the American people by saving, strengthening, and securing these programs – making them more responsive to the needs of beneficiaries. We want to look beyond just the big three and also focus attention on other mandatory spending programs – financial support programs, food stamps and educational assistance to name a few. Our goal is to end the immoral practice of forcing more Americans into dependency on broken programs.

To achieve this goal, we have to win the argument. To win the argument, we have to humanize the challenge and let folks know that, whether they believe it or not, they are invested in the success of these programs – whether as beneficiaries themselves, a family member to a beneficiary, a working-age individual paying a portion of their paycheck to fund the programs or anywhere in between. 

Those who oppose our reform efforts have been putting a human face on these issues for a long time. You all might remember in the last presidential election, President Obama’s team created this interactive online character named Julia and they built a website that chronicled Julia’s life and all the wonderful things they said the government would do for Julia.

It was a remarkably telling example of the Obama Administration’s vision for America – a cradle to grave state of government influence in one’s life. Conveniently absent from the story is of course all those folks – including Julia – who are paying for these programs – and the fact that, while she may retire and be eligible for Social Security and Medicare in her 60s, she will be one of the millions of seniors who spent a lifetime paying into a program that went bankrupt long before she was able to utilize it.

That’s the type of misleading characterization we are up against. Our critics try to claim the moral high ground. They say they are the ones looking after our seniors and those less well-off. But where’s the morality in committing seniors and low-income families to a health care system that cannot deliver – or which intrudes on the personal decisions of patients and their doctors? Is it moral to promise retirement security that the government knows it cannot provide? As policy thinkers and policymakers, achieving real, substantive improvements to the nation’s health and retirement programs will require showing that the status quo, do-nothing crowd are the ones acting recklessly and leaving the American people in a terrible situation.

In many ways, Republicans have already made tremendous strides with the Medicare reforms we have proposed in the House Republican budgets for the past several years. We have begun to normalize the issue and debate, so that it is acceptable to broach the topic of reform.

To see good ideas become good legislation and eventually good laws, we have to build a coalition around support for positive solutions. What might that coalition look like?

Here’s a hint: it’s not just folks who want to balance the nation’s budget. I’m one of those folks, and I was proud that Congress adopted our balanced budget plan this year. But we have to take a message of reform to those who might traditionally see any change as an assault on their benefits and show that the true assault comes from doing nothing. And it cannot be something we just talk about during budget season. We must continually engage on this front.

The danger to beneficiaries is not coming from those of us trying to improve the programs; it is coming in a few short years when Medicare and Social Security go bankrupt. Or, for those on disability insurance, as soon as next year.

So we need a coalition that is made up of Americans who believe in – again – saving, strengthening, and securing these programs. After all, even if Medicare and Social Security were on sound fiscal footing, which they are not, seniors would still benefit from expanded choices to ensure a healthier and more secure retirement. Medicaid would still be in dire need of improvements to ensure recipients actually have access to physicians. Income assistance, food stamps and other welfare programs would still benefit from efficiencies giving communities greater control and flexibility to tailor the programs to meet the needs of their citizens. Milton Friedman noted “One of the great mistakes is to judge policies and programs by their intention rather than their results.” When we look at the results, we know that we can’t simply preserve these programs; we must improve their policies so they better serve the American people. This is a moral imperative.

My goal here today is not to simply reinforce what you already know. It is to enlist you and your friends, others who might be tuning in to this conversation, to become a part of a concerted effort to restore the trust in these programs, in the goal of health and retirement security, in the goal of helping others shift from government assistance to independence, financial security and economic opportunity.

We purposely are not coming forward with a slate of legislative solutions – so as not to pre-determine the outcome of a healthy and honest debate – except to say that if we fail to motivate our fellow citizens and empower them to face these challenges, America’s health and retirement programs are destined to go broke – breaking the solemn promises we have made to each other.   

So we come with principles – principles that speak to the character of the American people; to our belief in the individual; to expanding choices and encouraging innovative thinking; to restoring market forces and engaging the spirit of federalism.

These principles will form the foundation of this campaign – Restoring the Trust for All Generations.

Success in this endeavor will not come quickly. The enormous challenges facing our nation’s health and retirement programs have grown over decades. Those who would demagogue our efforts have spent years refining their attacks – and are well entrenched and invested in the broken status quo. With every passing day, our work gets more challenging. So we need both a sense of urgency and a healthy perspective that we should be willing to accept even incremental progress along the way.

I hope you and your colleagues, your friends and family members will see the value in participating in this effort.

As I said at the outset, we really don’t have a choice. Even if you think you’ll be well on your way to achieving financial independence in your retirement years and will find no real use for the government’s assistance, you are still paying for it. And the economy you live and work in is paying for it. And, compassion for our fellow citizens ought to compel us to at least see the wisdom in ensuring millions of Americans are not left out in the cold, when we could have saved and strengthened these programs when we had the chance. This is the most predictable fiscal crisis our nation has ever faced.

If we make responsible decisions today, if we do not shy away from the tough challenges – but instead embrace this opportunity we will be able to foster a nation where the greatest number of Americans have the greatest opportunity to realize their dreams and to achieve the greatest success for themselves and their families with a more prosperous and secure future – that’s a pretty good goal.

You can learn more about the House Budget Committee’s efforts by going online at budget.house.gov/RestoringTheTrust. There you will find additional information including a white paper the committee has produced that dives deeper into these issues – providing greater detail about the challenges we face and the principles needed to solve them. We plan to update the site as we move forward and we are actively soliciting input from the public in this effort.

Thank you again to Doug, AAF and everyone here today for your time. I look forward to taking your questions and continuing this conversation.
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House Budget Committee Launches “Restoring the Trust” Initiative

2015/07/14

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the House Budget Committee announced the launch of Restoring the Trust for All Generations – a new initiative aimed at raising awareness about the fiscal and policy challenges inherent in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security as well as other mandatory spending programs like income support and educational assistance. The effort will enlist Americans in a call to action in order to build a consensus in support of reform. To begin the conversation, the Committee has released a policy paper entitled Restoring the Trust for All Generations: Principles for Saving and Strengthening America’s Health, Retirement, and Economic Security Programs.
 
The paper provides background on the looming insolvency and/or ineffectiveness of the nation’s health, retirement, and economic security programs, the adverse impact they will have on current and future generations of beneficiaries unless reforms are made, and the principles that should help guide the formation of solutions to save, strengthen and improve these programs. As the paper states, the time to act has come, and it will require a coalition to advance positive solutions based on a common sense set of principles:
 
Americans have lost confidence that their government can fulfill its promises, and Washington’s unsustainable budgetary outlook simply reflects in numbers the failures of its policies. Restoring the trust among America’s generations requires a new approach and a new way of thinking about how to keep the Nation’s commitments. Addressing this challenge is an imperative that cannot wait – and every American must be engaged in the discussion. …Building consensus to advance positive solutions is the next step toward securing the promises of the Federal Government’s major benefits programs. This requires new ways of thinking about how to fulfill these promises in a fiscally sustainable way, and developing a set of principles to guide the process. As described above, those principles should include expanding choices for individuals and families; restoring market forces and fostering competition that will encourage innovation and restrain costs; encouraging self-sufficiency rather than prolonged dependency; and engaging the spirit of federalism, allowing States and localities greater flexibility to meet the particular needs of their populations. Such steps can greatly contribute to restoring the trust in America’s promises for all generations.
 
CLICK HERE to read the full paper. Those wishing to participate in and contribute to this effort are encouraged to visit budget.house.gov/restoringthetrust for more information and to submit their insights to advance this conversation.
 
House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price, M.D. (GA-06) will address this new initiative in a speech tomorrow (Wednesday) at an event entitled Rising to the Challenge: The Need To Fix Entitlement Programs hosted by the American Action Forum. Registration for the event as well as a link to watch a live-stream can be found by clicking here.
 
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Price Statement on 21st Century Cures Act

2015/07/10

WASHINGTON, D.C. - House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price, M.D. (GA-06) issued the following statement after the House of Representatives passed H.R. 6, the 21st Century Cures Act:
 
“Supporting medical innovation and the work of agencies like the NIH is critical to ensuring America remains a global leader in the fight to cure deadly diseases and develop breakthrough medical treatments. My colleagues who have worked diligently on this legislation ought to be commended for their dedication to that effort. At the same time, while the goals of this legislation are laudable, the fact that it creates a new mandatory spending program is both troubling and unnecessary. There’s no reason that these programs could not be authorized and then made, appropriately, a priority through the discretionary spending process.
 
“Before coming to Congress, I practiced medicine for over twenty years. The headquarters for the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention is based in the Atlanta area. Needless to say, I wholeheartedly support the pursuit of medical research and innovation. However, I cannot support this legislation as it stands. It sets an unacceptable precedent – particularly at a time when so much of our federal budget is already on auto-pilot, increasingly difficult to control and a significant risk to America’s fiscal well-being. I stand ready to work with my colleagues in advancing funding for health care research and to do so in a responsible manner.” Read More

Price Responds to King v. Burwell Ruling

2015/06/25

WASHINGTON, D.C. – House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price, M.D. (GA-06) issued the following statement after the Supreme Court ruled in the case of King v. Burwell:

“The Supreme Court’s ruling has simply endorsed the status quo. It has not and it should not dissuade policymakers from continuing to pursue a repeal of Obamacare and, just as important, to pursue positive, patient-centered solutions. The status quo is harming patients, families, and America’s small businesses. It is wreaking havoc on the health insurance market, diminishing the innovation and vitality of our health care system and remains a barrier to job creation and a healthier economy.

“A better way to address the challenges in our health care system is to put patients and their doctors in charge of health care decisions. H.R. 2300, the Empowering Patients First Act, is legislation that does just that. It makes coverage more affordable, expands access to health care choices so folks can find and purchase the coverage they want for themselves, not what Washington says they must buy. It ensures we have a health care system that is responsive and innovative and one that does not waste billions of dollars every year on the practice of defensive medicine.

“While disappointed in the Court’s decision, I believe that we must continue our efforts to rid the country of Obamacare and start over with positive solutions that empower the American people, not Washington, D.C.”

Click here, to learn more about H.R. 2300, the Empowering Patients First Act.

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Price Statement on CBO Report on Obamacare Repeal

2015/06/19

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a report on the fiscal and economic impact of repealing Obamacare. Among CBO’s findings, repeal of the president's health care law would increase economic growth and labor force participation. House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price, M.D. (GA-06) issued the following statement in response to CBO's analysis:

“Obamacare is a direct threat to the quality, affordability and accessibility of health care in America, as well as a clear impediment to the economic vitality of our nation. According to CBO's analysis, repealing the president’s health care law would create a healthier economy. At a time when participation in the labor force is at an alarmingly low rate, getting rid of Obamacare’s harmful regulations, mandates and taxes would give job creators and job seekers greater opportunity. We can solve America’s health care challenges without harming our economy if we start over with positive, patient-centered solutions that put patients, families and doctors in charge, not Washington, D.C.”
 
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Chairman Price Opening Statement: Why Congress Must Balance the Budget

2015/06/17

As Prepared for Delivery

Good morning, everyone. Thank you all for being here.

Yesterday, the Congressional Budget Office released its Long-Term Budget Outlook. The news was not particularly surprising, but it was incredibly troubling. The national debt is on pace to rise to 175 percent of our GDP by 2040. As the nation’s fiscal imbalance grows, our economy and hard-working American families are suffering and will continue to suffer. CBO projects economic growth to average a subpar 2.3 percent. At the same time, Medicare and Social Security, vital health and retirement programs, face insolvency. That’s not just a bookkeeping challenge. It means Medicare and Social Security won’t be there to serve American seniors who have contributed to these programs their entire working lives unless we take action.

There is plenty more to say about the CBO’s long-term budget outlook, but we are not here today to discuss just one economic report. We are here to talk about why it is imperative that we stop ignoring these fiscal and economic warnings and, ultimately, what we ought to do to ensure the American people can have an economy with more opportunity and jobs, a safer and stronger nation, and a more secure retirement.

The title of this hearing is “Why Congress Must Balance the Budget.” I imagine there might be a few Americans watching these proceedings who are scratching their heads and saying “because that’s what responsible people do. Period.” American families and businesses balance their budgets all the time. They do so because they know that it’s irresponsible and unsustainable to spend more money than you have. In other words, it’s common sense. When it comes to taxpayer dollars, it’s about respecting the American worker.

But there are also other reasons we need to balance the budget – reasons other than making the numbers add up. First and foremost, a balanced budget brings significant economic benefits.

When House Republicans introduced a balanced budget proposal earlier this year, CBO projected that our plan would increase real economic output per person by about $1,000, in 2025, and by about $5,000, in 2040. That’s real money in the pockets of working Americans. Moreover, as I’ve said before, every dollar that Washington takes in taxes and every dollar that is borrowed to sustain the deficit spending or cover interest on the debt, is a dollar that won’t be spent on a kid’s education, that can’t be used to pay rent, or buy a house or a car. 

A balanced budget would better prepare our nation to face those unforeseen challenges that inevitably will come with time. No one knows for certain what the future might hold or when we might be faced with a terrorist attack, a natural disaster or another recession. But we do know that our debt and the economic consequences of that debt will make it harder for our nation to prepare and respond.

There are numerous other reasons why a balanced budget is good for this country and it’s why I’m looking forward to hearing the testimony from our witnesses today. We have Ryan Silvey, a state Senator from Missouri, Chris Edwards from the Cato Institute, John Taylor from Stanford University, and Jared Bernstein from the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. I want to thank all of you for taking the time to be here today and to share your experiences, expertise and informed views on this important issue.
 
It is incredibly important that we continue to broaden our understanding and the understanding of this Congress and the American people about the tremendous challenges we face and the need to develop positive solutions. Earlier this year, the House and Senate agreed on a balanced budget plan to strengthen America and build a brighter future. But our work is not done. And I’m happy to note that just as we are holding this hearing in the House today, Chairman Enzi and the Senate Budget Committee are holding a hearing on CBO’s Long-Term Budget Outlook. 

I’m looking forward to a lively discussion here today as we focus on why Congress must balance the budget.

And with that, I yield to the Ranking Member, Mr. van Hollen.  Read More

Price Statement on CBO’s Long-Term Budget Outlook

2015/06/16

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its Long-Term Budget Outlook that shows deficits and the national debt will continue to rise to 175 percent of GDP by 2040, both Medicare and Social Security are heading towards insolvency, and real economic growth will remain at subpar levels of 2.3 percent on average. House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price, M.D. (GA-06) issued the following statement in response to the CBO’s report:

“The conclusions of this report are not surprising but they are incredibly troubling. Our national debt is spiraling out of control. Medicare and Social Security are headed toward insolvency – creating uncertainty among today’s seniors and particularly tomorrow’s retirees about their health and retirement security. Interest payments on the nation’s debt alone are consuming a greater share of our annual budget – leaving fewer dollars for national security and other priorities. 

“Without a positive change in course, spending on mandatory programs and interest will eventually consume every dollar we have while the programs themselves will be unable to deliver on the promises made. That will mean more borrowing and more debt that will further burden our already weak economy. If we want to have the financial wherewithal as a nation to set priorities and fund them appropriately – to have a healthy economy, a competitive edge and a safe and secure nation – then we must do more to address our fiscal challenges, and we must act now.”
 
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Price Applauds Passage of Defense Appropriations Bill

2015/06/11

WASHINGTON, D.C. – House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price, M.D. (GA-06) issued the following statement after the House of Representatives passed the FY 2016 Department of Defense Appropriations Act:

“This spring, the House and Senate worked together to pass a responsible plan to balance the nation’s budget and improve our national security. Using that guidance, the Appropriations Committee produced a defense funding bill that will help ensure military readiness, provides critical resources to fight ISIS and other terrorist organizations, and gives our troops a pay raise. This is a good bill and one that will bring more accountability to the Pentagon.

“Sadly, our Democrat colleagues are threatening to block these resources from getting to the men and women who are protecting and defending America because they want to use our national security as a bargaining chip to increase spending for their and the president’s domestic agenda. They are unabashedly opposed to increasing support for our troops unless they can also ramp up spending at agencies like the IRS and the EPA. There ought to be strong, bipartisan agreement that our national security is a top priority. It’s time President Obama and his allies in Congress started working with Republicans to give our military members the resources they need to complete their missions.”
 
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