For Immediate Release

July 28, 2015

CONTACT: Bridgett Frey – 202-225-5384

Van Hollen Opening Statement: First Principles of Congressional Budgeting

Washington, DC – Today Maryland Congressman Chris Van Hollen, Ranking Member of the House Budget Committee, made opening remarks at the House Budget Committee hearing on the First Principles of Congressional Budgeting. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman.  I want to join the Chairman in welcoming all our witnesses today, some of whom have shared their views with us in the past.

“We all agree that we have long-term budget challenges that we must address. But the solution is not merely changing the budget process rules. What we should be talking about today is the urgent need to grow our economy with more broadly shared prosperity – which is the fastest and most effective way to reduce the deficit. That effort must begin with immediate negotiations to replace the damaging sequester cuts and avoid the government shutdown that is once again facing Congress.  That is the budget process that needs reforming right now.

“In order to boost economic growth, we should be investing in scientific research and innovation, modernizing our national infrastructure, and investing in educating our kids to compete in the 21st century workforce. Instead, my colleagues on the other side of the aisle passed a partisan budget that disinvested in America and undermined economic growth.  The appropriations process that has followed was marked by repeated efforts to gut vital investments.

“House Republicans slash funding for the Department of Education by $2.8 billion below the current level, and provide $1.3 billion less than the President requested for Head Start, potentially cutting services to hundreds of thousands of needy children who stand to benefit, including 7,800 from my own state of Maryland.

“At a time when so many Americans are still struggling to find work and others are seeking to improve their skills to grow their paychecks, the Republican bill actually cuts funding for employment and training programs below the current level and by a total of almost $1 billion below the President’s request.  This cut has real impact – for example, in Maryland alone, 36,000 fewer people will have access to job training services than under the President’s budget.  This is doubly painful, given that Republicans continue to push to require job training or education as a condition to receive government housing, food, or cash assistance.

“Of course, House Republicans are all too willing to cut these critical programs but refuse to cut a single special interest tax break, not even for hedge fund managers. This is unacceptable.

“Some of my Republican colleagues even admit this fact. In May, House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) said, ‘There’s a realization by people we have to do something. We can’t pass bills at these sequestration levels.’ Yet Speaker Boehner refuses to sit down and negotiate a replacement for the sequester.

“Instead, Republican Appropriations bills are using the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account to provide additional funding to defense programs – without providing any investments to the parts of our budget that fund schools, build roads, provide for other vital non-defense needs. This is adding insult to injury – especially as we’re here to talk about the budget process. They’ve turned the OCO account into a slush fund, an approach they themselves criticized as ‘a backdoor loophole that undermines the integrity of the budget process’ in last year’s Committee report on the budget resolution.  It said ‘The Budget Committee will exercise its oversight responsibilities with respect to the use of the OCO/GWOT designation in the FY 2015 budget process, and it will oppose increases above the levels the Administration and our military commanders say are needed to carry out operations unless it can be clearly demonstrated that such amounts are war-related.’  Apparently that no longer applies.

“The end of the fiscal year is fast approaching – it is time to sit down at the negotiating table and complete the most important budget process reform we can accomplish.”