Good morning, and welcome to the first Senate Budget Committee hearing of the 114th Congress. This morning, we’ll hear testimony from Congressional Budget Office Director Doug Elmendorf, as he explains CBO’s outlook on critical fiscal issues confronting our country.
Congress is under new management, and so is this Committee. Let me introduce myself: Hi. My name is Mike Enzi. I’m a Senator from Wyoming, first elected in 1996. Budgets matter to me: I am an accountant, and ran a small business in Wyoming for many years, working to keep my books balanced.
I served as a mayor of my home town, then as a state legislator. In both roles, one of my key jobs was making sure my city budget, and then my state budget, balanced every year.
I didn’t forget that when I came to the Senate. My first floor speech was to support a Constitutional amendment to balance the budget. After several years in the Senate, I finally had a chance to join this committee, and became chairman earlier this month.
This year, I intend to run a Budget Committee dedicated to the proposition that we must confront spending; bring the deficit to an end; and, ultimately, balance the budget.
As the first accountant to handle the gavel, the focus for me will always be the numbers: what do we spend? Where does that spending go? Where does the money we spend come from? Can we afford the spending we have? Where can we find the best value for the money that comes in to Washington, and leaves our Treasury?
One thing I learned since an early age, while you can lie about the numbers, numbers never lie, and so I will always be looking for the numbers, looking at the numbers, and understanding the numbers to be able to explain to colleagues and constituents facts about our budget and our spending.
Let me give you an example. I hear repeatedly that the Federal government has trust funds to cover a variety of multi-decade commitments our government has. But these trust funds are like nothing we all know in the private sector: they do not keep resources in trust for beneficiaries to claim in the future. Instead, monies sent to Washington for the trust funds are swapped out for Federal bonds, and the cash that you think you can count on is instead spent now on present needs. That’s why some of our greatest so-called trust funds are facing serious difficulties according to the people responsible for them. Without action we face the prospect of beneficiaries suffering significant harm in just a few years. So, be careful: If it’s a federal trust fund, don’t trust it.
Runaway spending habits have bred excessive deficits and incredible debt. As we meet this morning, our Federal debt totals over $18 trillion. Every man, woman, and child owes $56,000 on that debt. Federal spending has hit a record high. Revenues are at historic heights. Yet every year we run deficits that are on track to hit nearly a $1 trillion. The more deficits we have, the more debt we owe, the more that we add to the tab for future Americans as yet unborn. That just doesn’t seem right to me.
Our budget process lacks transparency. It seems designed to confuse. It leaves the general public unsatisfied that their concerns have been heard in Washington. Over time, I’d like this Committee to begin work on addressing problems with the budget framework that exists, so it becomes more responsive to the people we serve. Working with you and your colleagues, Senator Sanders, I think there are good opportunities for bipartisanship here. After all, no one likes the budget process we currently have.
This Committee has a significant responsibility. We are required by the law to produce a budget resolution. Congress hasn’t produced a budget resolution since 2009. It’s been 10 years since Republicans in the House and Senate agreed together on a budget. The law says we should get it done by April 15th. As of today, there are only 77 days before April 15th for us to get our work done.
Together with my House counterpart, I am dedicated to doing all I can so we meet our deadline. This Committee will act on a budget resolution. We will report it out. The Senate will consider it. We will negotiate with the House. We will pass a common budget resolution.
We will write a plan to restore common sense and good budgeting to Washington. We will act to control the spending, reduce the deficits, and end the debt. We will act to restore balance to our budgets, certainty to our economy, and confidence to our constituents.
And in so doing, we will take the first necessary step to standing up for Americans so that over time, their share of what we all owe can stop growing, and start shrinking.
They can keep more of what they earn.
They can save for what they need.
They can expect the government to help when it must, while they can accomplish all they dream.
Our country needs us to act. It’s time for us to come off the sidelines and get the job done to balance our budget.