“It has been four years since the Democrat-led Senate has produced a budget as the law requires… I am glad that the Senate majority has relented and is going to do a budget this year, else I wonder what our Committee might find itself having to do—whether we would even need the Committee. So we look forward to meeting the Committee deadline of April 1st to publically produce a resolution and then April 15th on the Senate floor…
While we talk of cuts and frugality, total spending is expected to grow by 67 percent over the next 10 years. Primarily alarming is a finding in an additional CBO report prepared at my request: spending on just the 10 largest welfare and poverty programs—programs like food stamps—will increase even more, by 76 percent over ten years… Compassion demands changes. Our goal must be to help more Americans find gainful employment and the opportunity to financially support themselves and their families and to prosper.”
WASHINGTON—U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Ranking Member of the Senate Budget Committee, delivered an opening statement today at the Committee’s first hearing in the 113th Congress. Sessions’ remarks follow:
“Thank you Chairman Murray, and thank you Mr. Elmendorf for appearing before the Budget Committee today; we value what we do. It’s important to for us have honest numbers that we can work with. Honesty in our financial situation is absolutely critical at this point in history. I’d also like to welcome all of our new members to the committee. I look forward to a productive year. We absolutely face some very serious challenges.
And of course the reason Chairman Murray indicated that deficits have become the topic of the day is because we have never had such systemic deficits as we have today—they exceed anything the nation has ever had. And as CBO’s report shows, they get worse in the out-years. We cannot continue on this course. Bowles and Simpson told us in this very room that this nation has never faced a more predictable financial crisis. So that’s why we have to talk about this, and we have to ask some fundamental questions.
The Chair has set forth the President’s and the Democratic majority’s narrative. We reject that narrative. We have serious differences with that narrative. We will not go quietly on that because we believe some of the real problems that are being caused today is because of this kind of incorrect economic thinking.
It has been four years since the Democrat-led Senate has produced a budget as the law requires. The Senate has not only a legal but a moral duty to present taxpayers with a plan for how their money will be spent. It is a tragedy that under Senator Reid’s leadership, we have not engaged in the kind of open and public financial discussion that the American people deserve. Majority Leader Reid even said it would be “foolish” to have a budget.
By contrast, the GOP House, in accordance with law, has laid out a budget plan each year. That plan will change the debt course of America. And they will do another budget this year.
I am glad that the Senate majority has relented and is going to do a budget this year, else I wonder what our Committee might find itself having to do—whether we would even need the Committee. So we look forward to meeting the Committee deadline of April 1st to publically produce a resolution and then April 15th on the Senate floor, including that statutorily mandated fifty hours of debate and a guaranteed vote.
Madam Chairman, I stand ready to work with you and the staff to produce a budget that we can talk with the American people about. I believe that budget should balance—should balance at least within 10 years. It is something that we can do, and I think the report Mr. Elmendorff has given us shows us some of the ways that we can get there. It’s not a hopeless situation, but it’s a very dire situation.
The picture CBO paints of the next 10 years is immensely disturbing. Our gross federal debt, after rising $6 trillion in the last four years, will rise another $9 trillion by 2022. CBO’s report also suggests that, from there, things only get worse outside the 10-year window—continuing us on an unsustainable financial path. If it’s unsustainable, that means we have to change it. This despite the fact that CBO expects federal revenue to be well above the average of the last 40 years.
Top economists agree, including a recent study from the International Monetary Fund, that total debt over 90 percent of GDP weakens economic growth. Federal government debt is 103 percent. In other words, our job-crushing debt not only threatens to collapse the economy tomorrow, but it is already destroying jobs and growth today.
CBO also projects that we are entering a future in which our debt is so great that our fastest growing item in the budget will be interest payments. According to CBO, annual interest costs will quadruple, totaling $5.4 trillion over the next 10 years. By 2020, interest costs are expected to exceed the cost of national defense. Interest payments, which help no one and build nothing, will crowd spending on the rest of the budget.
While we talk of cuts and frugality, total spending is expected to grow by 67 percent over the next 10 years. Primarily alarming is a finding in an additional CBO report prepared at my request: spending on just the 10 largest welfare and poverty programs—programs like food stamps—will increase even more, by 76 percent over ten years.
There are roughly 80 welfare programs overall that together comprise the single largest item in the federal budget—larger than Medicare, Social Security, or defense. Improving these programs would do a lot more than save money. Like 1996, smart reforms of welfare will help more Americans rise out of poverty—that is what I want to see, more people out of poverty—and will strengthen the institutions of family, charity, and community. We must talk honestly and with compassion about these issues.
In that vein, I would also like to take a moment to address some comments, Senator Murray, that you made recently that Republicans are committed “to protecting the rich above all else,” and are only interested in “starving programs that help middle class families and the most vulnerable Americans.” That is not what I believe in. I believe we have to have an economy that is growing, creating prosperity, and we need to help poor people get jobs and move forward in their lives—not be ever dependent on more and more government checks, handouts, and programs. That would be the way to save this country in my opinion. That’s the way to help poor people. And I resent the fact that people suggest that those of us who have a different view of how to help poor people somehow don’t care about them.
Compassion and help for the poor and struggling amounts to more than borrowing more money and sending out more checks.
My goal is to protect hardworking Americans from the social and economic harm that is being caused by the policies of this president and this Senate Majority. The left-wing policies that continue to govern places like the great city of Baltimore are producing poverty, dependency, crime, and joblessness. 1 in 3 residents in the great city of Baltimore are living on food stamps. 1 in 3 youth in Baltimore are living in poverty. There are solutions to these problems and we can do better. We have to do better. We cannot continue on this course.
Compassion demands changes. Our goal must be to help more Americans find gainful employment and the opportunity to financially support themselves and their families and to prosper. Before closing my remarks today, I would like to briefly address a serious financial challenge that Congress will face in the coming days. As we consider immigration reform, we need to look at the long-term cost of any proposal. A large-scale amnesty, along with a large influx of low-wage labor, would grow by the millions the number of people who have access to our welfare and safety net programs. Our Republican staff estimates, for instance, that putting 11 million illegal immigrants on a path to citizenship would increase the long-term cost of the president’s health law by $2.5 trillion.
I look forward to addressing these and other issues during today’s hearing. We have no higher obligation as lawmakers than to protect the financial security of the Republic and its good and decent citizens.”