Chairman Murray and the Senate Budget Committee held a hearing with Office of Management and Budget Director Sylvia Mathews Burwell to discuss the President’s Fiscal Year 2015 Budget Proposal.

Murray explained that the President’s budget is a strong proposal that can build on the two year bipartisan budget agreement.

“The President’s budget is a strong proposal for a long-term plan to build on our two-year budget deal, create jobs and broad-based growth, and expand opportunities for families and communities across the country. Congress proved in December that when we work together on a budget we can invest in our priorities and reduce the deficit—and I am hoping that Republicans will join us once again to continue that work,”Murray said. 

Murray Burwell

Murray also highlighted the importance of the two-year budget deal, which set a bipartisan spending level for 2015.

“Critically, because it was a two-year deal, it set budget levels for fiscal year 2015, which allows the Appropriations Committees to get to work with a bipartisan spending level. That gives families and communities across the country the budget certainty they deserve. I give Chairman Ryan a lot of credit for his work on our two-year budget, along with the many Republicans and Democrats who worked with us on it and supported it. Nobody thinks our two-year budget deal was perfect. It was a compromise. And nobody thinks it was the end of the story, of course it’s not. Now let’s work together to build on that two-year budget deal—not re-litigate it.” Murray said in her opening statement.

Read Chairman Murray’s full opening statement here.

Murray asked OMB Director Burwell to describe the significance of the budget deal.

Burwell

“I would focus on the benefits in two ways: One are the direct benefits to the American people in terms of what the deal did. By setting the levels in ’14 and ’15, the deal provided, I think, much needed relief in the sequester space that was paid for, so it was deficit neutral in terms of our long-term fiscal health. It did things when the deal was translated to the appropriations process like ensure that there were double-digit percentage increases off of sequester for key things like infrastructure and TIGER grants. The deal also lead to things like progress on making sure that states can get started on a process to get universal preschool. So across the board – and in our national security space it provided additional funding for defense. And so those are things it specifically did, I think, that impact our citizens and our businesses every day. In addition to that, it is a process issue in terms of the certainty it provided. And I think we had a fall of much uncertainty -- an uncertainty that caused damage to the nation’s economy and its citizens. And so the certainty, I think, is an important part of what it did as well. I think finally, in that area of process, what it did is it shows that we in Washington can start to build the muscles of working together to move things forward,” Burwell responded. 

Read Director Burwell’s testimony here.

Democratic members of the Committee explained that budget deficits must be addressed in a fair manner, and that deficits in infrastructure, education, and workforce development must also be addressed.

“I think that there is a strong acknowledgment on behalf of the administration that we are facing deficits on several fronts and of several varieties. While we are making our way to stabilizing our fiscal deficit, we are also facing an infrastructure deficit, an education and workforce development deficit, and a research and innovation deficit. And addressing these other deficits will help us out of our fiscal deficit because it sets the foundation, in my opinion, for long-term economic growth. And, for this reason, I am encouraged by the Opportunity Growth and Security Initiative in the President’s budget which I think makes the very investments that we need in order to move our economy forward,” said Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI).

“Let me point out as you evaluate my colleagues’ alarms about the debt and deficit, I think that we should all bear in mind that those concerns seem to have an interesting characteristic which is that they evaporate in proximity to billionaires’ and big corporations’ tax goodies. And if you raise the question of the low rates that hedge fund operators pay, or off-shoring tax schemes, or special interest loopholes, well, we got to protect those at all costs. So when you hear these concerns about the debt and the deficit, do bear in mind that for a great number of my colleagues, the debt and the deficit is, in practice, much less important than protecting carried interests, much less important than maintaining Cayman Islands’ offshore shelters, and much less important than keeping big oil subsidies rolling. And I think that context is important in the context of this discussion. I think we could get a lot done on the debt and the deficit if it wasn’t more important to protect the carried interest loophole, to protect the big oil subsidies, and to protect offshoring in the Cayman Islands on the part of some of my colleagues,” said Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D – RI).