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Hearing of the House Budget Committee - Budget Process Reform Bills


Location: Washington, DC

"Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

"I must confess, I was surprised that we scheduled a markup on two budget process reform bills at a time when this Congress and this House of Representatives is in gross violation of the biggest and most important statute governing the budget process. I think that all of our colleagues know that the budget process -- in fact Title III of the Congressional Act of 1974 is called Congressional Budget Process -- Section 301 says "on or before April 15th of each year the Congress shall complete action on a concurrent resolution on the budget.'

"In other words, we will go to a budget conference, resolve the differences between the House budget and the Senate budget, and the statute says that we should do that by April 15th.

"So, it is a little strange that we would find ourselves here, tinkering with some of the budget process -- and, I think, tinkering in an ill-advised way -- at a time when this Congress is not doing its job with respect to the major responsibility of this Committee -- which is getting a budget to remove the uncertainty, to replace the sequester so that we can remove that drag on the economy and the disruption that it's causing, and to accelerate economic growth.

"And Mr. Chairman, you know that for years our Republican colleagues here lambasted the Senate for failing to have a budget. And yet now, it's been 88 days since the United States Senate passed a budget. And still the Speaker refuses to take the next step under the law, which is to appoint conferees so that we can get a resolution of that issue in a transparent way so that the public can follow what is going on.

"In fact, as you know, Senate Democrats have now tried, I believe, at least ten times to get unanimous consent in the United States Senate to move forward toward a budget conference. They have been blocked every time. Senator McCain has described the Republican position on this issue as "insane,' as "incomprehensible,' and he is not alone. There is a long list of Republican Senators, and many Republican House members, who have essentially expressed the same sentiment.

"I think many of us were here when the acting head of the Office of Management and Budget, Mr. Jeff Zients, was before this committee, sitting right in that chair there. And he was roasted because the President's budget was 65 days late. Well, the President's budget was late because of the last-minute wrangling over the fiscal cliff agreement in January -- so at least he had an excuse. Today marks the 65th day since, by statute, this conference committee is supposed to have met on the budget -- by law.

"And yet, I think everybody knows that you can't get a budget out of conference committee if you refuse to appoint conferees.

"And I would just urge everybody when they get a chance to just read the transcript of the exchange that day where Mr. Garrett -- he did a good job of absolutely roasting Mr. Zients -- asked him if he understood the law, and if he didn't understand the law that we could call him back as a witness at another time.

"Well, the law says April 15th. We are now as many days removed from April 15th as the President's budget was from the date there -- without any excuse or reason, which at least the President had.

"So, we can discuss these bills. As I say, I think they are ill-advised. We will get more into the details in a minute. But it is kind of bizarre to be tinkering around the edges when we are in gross violation of our major responsibility as a Budget Committee.

"And I reserve the balance of my time."

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