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Opening Statement: House Budget Committee; Budgeting To Fight Waste, Fraud, And Abuse


Location: Washington, DC

Opening Statement: House Budget Committee; Budgeting To Fight Waste, Fraud, And Abuse

REP. RYAN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I was just trying to turn the mute button off.

I appreciate the fact that you're holding this hearing, and I want to thank my good friend Secretary Leavitt for coming here and being with us today.

You know, bipartisanship might seem often in short supply around here, but reducing the amount of waste in government programs is a goal that both of us can clearly agree on, because after all, we are spending someone else's money, and we have a moral obligation to do it as wisely and efficiently as possible.

But while we spend a lot of time talking about wasteful appropriations spending and we have taken important steps to clean up the earmark process, we tend to spend precious little time talking about waste, fraud and abuse in the massive entitlement spending programs.

I want to commend Secretary Leavitt for his efforts on this front, and I also want to commend the chairman of the majority for including measures to fight abuse in their budget resolution. That was a great reform to see.

I'm very interested in hearing from the secretary about the effectiveness of these measures, and I look forward to reviewing any data that examines whether these initiatives have achieved their potential in the past.

Just as I noted, everyone can agree that Congress should and must work to reduce waste and fraud and abuse in government programs.

But I think most would agree that there is often much room for improvement in the way we go about doing this. The average taxpayer must find it a little ironic when Congress sets out to improve a program's efficiency by giving it even more tax dollars.

The cap adjustments that we are talking about today operate on just that premise. If we ask a government program to find out ways to reduce wasteful spending, we give them even more money than they already have to do it. It seems to me that this is something these programs should be doing as a matter of course. It should be already a priority under their normal budget request to ensure that their resources are being allocated to those who truly need it. This should be standard operating procedure for all government programs.

So while these measures are certainly commendable, and while they may provide an impetus for some improvement, they're not a long-term answer. As we've seen in the past, the best way to ensure a reduction in programs' waste, fraud and abuse is to mandate reform through the regular reconciliation process, because when congressional committees are actually required to reform programs and find savings, they tend to look a whole lot harder than if they were simply given the option.

Now we were just reminded of this when Congress passed the Deficit Reduction Act, in which we not only managed to achieve necessary reforms but we did so in the same Medicare program that we're talking about here today.

And at the same time, we also saved taxpayers $40 billion in the process without spending an extra dime. We need regular oversight. We need regular reform. And I believe the best way to assure that this is achieved is through the regular budget reconciliation process, and we ought to do this every single year.

And I look forward to today's discussion on how it might be combined with or replace other waste-reducing measures.

These observations aside, I want to again commend the administration and the secretary for all their efforts to improve government efficiency and effectiveness. While we may disagree on the best way to get there, we both certainly agree on the objectives we are trying to achieve, and I look forward to working together with the chairman, the gentleman from South Carolina, to make the federal government more accountable, more sustainable and more effective for the American taxpayer.

And I thank you for your indulgence, Chairman, and I look forward to the testimony.

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