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Hearing of the Senate Budget Committee - Nomination of the Honorable Sylvia Mathews Burwell to be Director of OMB

Hearing

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"This hearing will now come to order. I'd like to thank ranking member Senator Sessions--and all of my colleagues for joining me here today. As well as members of the public here or watching online.

"Today we are considering President Obama's nomination of Sylvia Mathews Burwell to be the next Director of the Office of Management and Budget.

"Sylvia, thank you for joining us today.

"And I also would like to welcome her husband, Stephen Burwell, and her sister-in-law, Stephanie O'Keefe, who are also here with us. As everyone in this room knows, those of us in public service could not do our jobs without the support of our families. So I want to recognize and thank Sylvia's family for their dedication and sacrifices as well.

"I also want to recognize Jeff Zients for his outstanding service as Acting Director of OMB. Jeff's leadership at OMB has been instrumental during a critical time for our country. As Acting Director, Jeff has helped us tackle some of our most pressing fiscal issues over the past few years. We've been fortunate to have his skilled leadership, and I want to thank him again for his service. And, we will of course hear from him tomorrow on the President's 2014 budget.

"As we all know, our country faces serious fiscal and economic challenges that we need to work together to address.

"Right now the economy is recovering, but far too slowly. Millions of workers are still looking for too few jobs. Millions of families are still worrying about staying in their homes, or putting food on the table.

"We have serious long-term deficit and debt challenges that we need to tackle since we certainly don't want to leave our children and grandchildren with an unmanageable pile of our bills.

"And the American people are sick and tired of the gridlock that has paralyzed the budget process in Washington, D.C. They are looking to us to end the constant artificial crises and political brinksmanship that is threatening our fragile economic recovery. And they want us to come together around fair solutions that work for the middle class, help the economy grow, and tackle our deficit and debt responsibly.

"That's why I am proud of the work we did here in the Budget Committee and on the Senate floor last month to write, debate, and pass a responsible budget plan that puts economic growth and the middle class first.

"The Senate Budget that we passed invests in jobs and economic growth, tackles our deficit and debt fairly and responsibly with an equal mix of spending cuts and new revenue from the wealthiest Americans, and it keeps the promises we've made to our seniors, veterans, families, and communities. But passage of our budget is not the end of the discussion, the work needs to continue until we get the balanced and bipartisan deal the American people expect and deserve.

"That's why now, more than ever, it is so important that we continue to have strong leadership at the Office of Budget Management. Which is why I am pleased that we have such a qualified and exceptional nominee in Sylvia Burwell.

"Sylvia knows what it means to invest in job-creation in the short term, while working to put our country on a strong path to responsible and sustainable deficit and debt reduction over the medium and long-term.

"In the 1990s, she was a critical part of President Clinton's economic team, serving as Deputy Director of the Office of Management and Budget, Deputy Chief of Staff to the President, and Chief of Staff to the Secretary of the Treasury.

"During Sylvia's tenure in the Clinton Administration, we saw broad-based economic growth and responsible budgets that worked for the middle class. As Deputy Director of OMB in the late 1990s, Sylvia helped preside over three of the four budget surpluses experienced in a row.

"Businesses saw government taking a credible and sustainable approach to our federal budget, and it gave them the confidence to hire new workers and invest in their growth. Middle class workers were getting better jobs, spending their money, and building prosperity.

"This economic growth, built from the middle out, along with the balanced and responsible fiscal stewardship, turned our deficit and debt challenges around. Federal revenue increased from 17.5% of GDP to 20.6%. At the same time, responsible spending cuts lowered federal spending by almost four percentage points. And, as a result, a 4.7% deficit was turned into a 2.4% surplus in eight years.

"The lessons of the "90s are vital to the discussions we are having today about our budget and our economy. So I believe Sylvia's experience working on a balanced, responsible approach to deficit reduction will bring important knowledge and a key perspective to OMB.

"Following her work in the Clinton Administration, Sylvia continued her public service by leading major organizations in the non-profit and foundation world.

"At the Gates Foundation, she served as the President of the Global Development Program and Chief Operating Officer, working to expand their global efforts to improve the lives of others across the world.

"Most recently, as President of the Wal-Mart Foundation, Sylvia has continued to create a positive impact on our communities, focusing on critical issues such as hunger relief and women's economic empowerment.

"Sylvia's experience managing billion-dollar global budgets, combined with her leadership on domestic fiscal policy in the "90s, make her a uniquely qualified candidate to lead OMB and to help shape our country's economic future.

"And not only does Sylvia's professional experience make her a strong nominee for this position; she also brings an important personal outlook to the job. Raised in West Virginia as the granddaughter of Greek immigrants, Sylvia grew up with the values of hard work and the promise of American opportunity.

"She has seen first-hand that budgets are not just about abstract numbers and the partisan back-and-forth that too often dominates the conversation. She knows they are reflections of our values and our priorities, and they are about the families across our country whose lives and futures are impacted by the decisions we make.

"There are tough challenges before Sylvia and all of us here on the Budget Committee.

"I've had the opportunity to sit down personally with Sylvia and to discuss the approach she will take to these important issues. I am confident that she possesses the kind of experience, integrity, and expertise necessary to succeed in this position. And that she will work to tackle our debt and deficit issues in a balanced way, by prioritizing fairness, opportunity, and a return to the responsible fiscal and economic policies that have worked for our country before.

"Especially during these difficult economic times, it is critical that we continue having strong and consistent leadership at OMB. The Committee's Ranking Member, Senator Sessions, and I agree that it is time to return to a pattern of stability and continuity with regard to our budget process.

"The Senate Budget we passed last month was a key step toward doing this.

"And, Senator Sessions and I agree that confirming a permanent Director of OMB is another important part of this effort. I hope that we can move quickly on this nomination since we cannot afford to have uncertainty in this position right now. And, I hope to schedule a Committee vote on this nomination soon so that the full Senate can confirm the nominee in a timely manner. And, I look forward to asking Sylvia some questions following her testimony.

"But we will first turn to Senator Sessions, the Ranking Member of this Committee, for his opening statement."


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