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Public Statements

Executive Session

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. MANCHIN. Madam President, I rise to urge the Senate to confirm the nomination of Sylvia Mathews Burwell to be Director of the Office of Management and Budget. I do so with great pride because Sylvia Burwell is from my home State of West Virginia. I have been dear friends with her family for a long time.

Her parents have been community leaders in Hinton, WV, for over half a century. Her father Dr. William Mathews is a longtime optometrist, and her mother the Honorable Cleo Mathews previously served as the mayor of Hinton, as well as in a number of other public service positions. I worked with Sylvia for many years as mayor when I was Governor of the State--she was quite competent--including 8 years on the State Board of Education when she served as president of the board of education.

If you want to know Sylvia, you should look at her small hometown of Hinton, WV, and the surrounding Summers County that she grew up in because that is her grounding. It is pure Americana, a one-time railroad boom town, woven into the mountains of Appalachia. The downtown historic district, 200 buildings, including churches, storefronts, and private residences, is an architectural gem of American Gothic, Classical, Victorian and Greek Revival styles. It is a movie just waiting to happen.

Hinton is the ideal example of smalltown West Virginia and probably smalltown America. It only has 2,600 residents. That is a pretty large town for West Virginia and probably North Dakota. It is nestled into a lush green valley on the banks of the New River, surrounded by the towering, majestic mountains and forests of Summers County, one of the most beautiful counties in West Virginia.

New River is one of the oldest rivers in the world. It flows south to north, which may be due to the fact that it was formed long before the Appalachian Mountains.

This is the special place Sylvia Mathews Burwell calls home, a showcase for the best of West Virginia and America, the beauty, the outdoors, and the people are warm and welcoming. Sylvia is humble, hardworking, has spent most of her life helping hard-working families everywhere achieve the American dream her Greek immigrant grandparents found in this country.

She went off to Harvard, was a Rhodes Scholar, and has traveled the world over. But she has never lost touch with her West Virginia roots and the ties that bind us together. No matter where she is, 1 day each week like clockwork, Sylvia is on the phone with the two best friends she made in the first grade in Hinton. Think about it. That is who we are. That is the heart and soul of West Virginia, friends and family.

But make no mistake, I am supporting Sylvia's nomination not because she is from West Virginia, which makes it all that much sweeter, but because she embodies the best of our State and our country. In West Virginia, we judge people by their deeds as much as their words, and Sylvia has already accomplished so much in her life, the public service and philanthropy she has been involved with.

Sylvia Mathews Burwell is an exceptional choice to lead the Office of Management and Budget, especially in the aftermath of sequestration, which is what we are going through now, and which so many of our colleagues detailed on the Senate floor this past week. We are still discussing it.

I say that because Sylvia served as the Deputy Director of the Office of Management and Budget, which now she will become Director of, from 1998 to 2001, which was our last era--think about the last time of fiscal responsibility, when balanced deficit reduction gave us balanced Federal budgets.

The fiscal plan she and Erskine Bowles, whom she worked with, put together, had we followed it to this day and not changed, would have erased our national debt completely by now. Can you believe that. We would have been totally out of debt as a nation if we had followed the plan that was put forward back in 1996, 1997, 1998, and followed through after 2001.

Sylvia was a key part of the Clinton White House team which reached across the aisle, negotiated those balanced budgets with a Republican Congress. If we look closely at the numbers, we can see what an accomplishment it was to fix our finances in the 1990s. Prior to 1993, when Sylvia joined the Clinton administration, the United States had failed to balance its budget for 23 years--23 years.

By 1992, spending had risen to historic highs--I think we all know that story--and revenues had reached near historic lows. We know that one too. That is exactly the dilemma we are in right now, compared to the size of the economy. In 1992, the Federal budget deficit topped out at $290 billion. I think we are close to $17 trillion in debt right now.

By the time Sylvia left the Clinton White House and went to the Office of Management and Budget in 1998 as a Deputy, the wheels were in motion of sustainable balanced budgets for years to come. She put these wheels on. Spending had shrunk drastically and revenues were soaring to historic highs, thanks to a thriving U.S. economy and reasonable tax policy that ensured both corporations and wealthy individuals paid their fair share.


Mr. MANCHIN. In 1998, Sylvia's last year in the White House and the first year at OMB, the Federal budget had a $69.3 billion surplus, the first surplus in a generation. Sylvia has been out of government for the last 12 years. But I am confident she will bring a fresh perspective to the fiscal debate we will be having over the next few years.

After serving in high-profile leadership positions, she has been well balanced, and she has been with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. She has been their top person. I would hope all my colleagues on the Republican side and my colleagues on the Democratic side will look at Sylvia as part of America, part of this great country, a product of who we are. She will do a great job because she has a track record of already doing it. With that, I would encourage all my colleagues to please vote in support of Sylvia Mathews Burwell.


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