U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Ranking Member of the Senate Budget Committee, delivered an opening statement today at a Committee mark-up to begin work on the Democrat-led Senate's first budget plan in four years:
Sessions' remarks, as prepared, follow:
"Thank you, Chairman Murray.
The Budget Committee exists for one central reason: to produce a federal budget plan for the United States. The GOP-led House has fulfilled this obligation each year, while the Democrat-led Senate has not.
After four years of no budget in the Senate, and after the House passed legislation--No Budget, No Pay--it is good news that our committee is finally doing its job. Now we are doing our work in public, for all to see. Maybe the product will go to conference. Maybe progress can be made.
Already, the prospect of actual votes is clarifying the minds of Senators on key issues. But, I must express my disappointment that we have still not been provided a copy of the Chairman's budget mark.
Chairman Ryan has already publicly laid out the House plan which balances in 10 years.
This objective--balancing the federal budget within a decade--must be our goal as a nation. The open and honest House budget is what we must have in the Senate. No gimmicks, no vague promises such as "balanced approach" or "primary balance," which hide the truth and avoid accountability. The Chairman said, "our budget is balanced." It is anything but balanced. They're using that phrase, but their plan absolutely never balances. Using those vague phrases allows them to avoid being held accountable.
Many would be surprised that balancing the budget will only require a modest reduction in the rate of spending growth. We can balance the budget in 10 years if we simply hold the growth of spending to 3.4 percent each year.
Some of my colleagues have asked, "Won't a reduction in the growth of spending hurt the economy?" The answer is this: cutting spending will grow the economy.
In a February 2013 report titled "The Macroeconomics of Alternative Budgetary Paths," CBO answers this question. CBO finds that over 10 years, reducing the increase in spending by $4 trillion--close to what a balanced budget requires--would increase economic growth. Quoting from CBO's the report: "Real GNP would be lower, by .6 percent, in the fourth quarter of 2014 and higher, by 1.7 percent, in 2023 than it would be under current law." CBO has also made this point during the 2009 debate over the $870 billion stimulus bill--finding that over 10 years the country will get less growth than if there had been no borrow-and-spend stimulus at all.
In the last 10 years, we spent $31 trillion. Over the next 10 years we are projected to spend $47 trillion. Over the next decade, spending will increase 67 percent from today's levels. This is well above the expected inflation rate of 25 percent during that same time.
Experts all tell us our current baseline debt path--even with the recently enacted spending cuts and higher taxes--is unsustainable.
Is the Budget Committee of the United States Senate really prepared to say we cannot balance the federal budget? If that is so, it is a sad day in America.
I would ask my colleagues on the other side of the aisle, do you believe we can balance the budget in 10 years?
Unfortunately, from the details the Chairman has shared with the media about her plan, it appears that the majority's budget will never balance, will likely add $7 trillion to the debt, and the annual deficits after the 10-year window will be increasing back towards $1 trillion on an unsustainable path. The majority also eliminates the sequester, it appears--thereby increasing spending about $1 trillion--and uses accounting tricks like phony war savings to create the false appearance of cuts. Honestly accounted, the majority's plan is a net spending increase above already surging growth that is projected in the baseline.
The plan does not include any reform of entitlements, does not promote the bipartisan pro-growth tax reform ideas so much discussed, makes no reforms to the 80-plus welfare and poverty assistance programs that are projected to grow 82 percent, and makes no changes to the new health care law that every day becomes more unsustainable.
Is it really possible that after four years, the majority has failed to identify any reforms? That all we have is just a tax-and-spend budget that makes no alteration to our dangerous debt course? Does the majority believe the government is perfect and requires no reform?
The famed economists Rogoff and Reinhart released a paper just last April that concludes that when gross debt, not public debt, reaches 90 percent of GDP, then the economy slows between one and two percent. You may not be aware that the International Monetary Fund, the Bank for International Settlements, and the European Central Bank have reached, independently, very similar conclusions. Our gross debt is now 103 percent of GDP. The other studies, with different approaches, all find that our current surging debt of almost $17 trillion is causing a drag on our economy now. A one percent decline in growth costs one million jobs. We know that for the past three years, growth has fallen below CBO projections. These studies show our debt is hurting the economy now and that increased spending and more debt must end. It cannot be contended any longer that it is good for America to borrow more and spend more. We must grow the economy--not the government. I believe we all know this, and so do the American people.
But every time attempts are made to reform government, they meet with the same response: the President and our Chairman and Senator Reid have attacked the reformers. They say such ideas aren't compassionate or fair. But what is truly unfair and lacking in compassion is to protect a federal bureaucracy that is failing those who need our help the most.
The harsh political rhetoric from the White House and certain leaders is not helpful to our citizens who are hurting, as so many are today. The truth is our huge debt and failed government programs are hurting the people we are trying to help right now. Struggling citizens are being hurt every day by the Washington establishment that our colleagues seem determined to shield from accountability.
I fear the majority's plan will enrich the bureaucracy at the expense of the people.
Many seem to think compassion is defined by the government sending out more borrowed money. The Obama Administration even awarded a food stamp promoter for overcoming "mountain pride" and getting people to enroll who didn't want to.
Isn't it a better goal to help more Americans find good-paying jobs, to have the pride and self-respect that comes from that? Isn't this a superior form of compassion that has a more solid moral foundation?
We need to grow the economy, not the government. We must act to create more jobs and better pay. And we can do it without adding to the debt. Here's how:
Pro-growth tax reform
More domestic energy production
Make the welfare office a place to restart lives
Defend American workers from unfair foreign trade practices
Make government leaner and more productive
Enforce immigration law to ensure fairness for American workers
Eliminate every burdensome federal regulation that isn't needed and that destroys jobs
Balance the federal budget--reduce our debt
These steps will empower the individual--not the state. They will promote family--not bureaucracy.
Reforming government and balancing the budget will not only strengthen our economy, but will help preserve our constitutional heritage so that we can pass it on, intact, to the next generation."