Representative Jeb Hensarling

“I thank the co-chair for yielding, and want to thank her again for her leadership on this committee and the spirit of negotiation that she brings.

“There is no such thing as an un-important hearing when it comes to dealing with our nation’s structural debt crisis, and certainly within our nation’s discretionary budget are contained many challenges and, frankly, many important priorities that have to be debated and negotiated.  Not the least of which is what many view as the number one function of our federal government, and that is to protect us from all enemies foreign and domestic, and specifically our national defense budget which continues to shrink as a percentage of our economy, shrink as a percentage of our budget, as we continue to live in a dangerous world.

“When I look at the totality of our discretionary budget, I do again find some common ground with my co-chair. And again, although there is no such thing as an unimportant hearing or unimportant section of the budget, in many respects today we may be debating the ‘pennies, nickels and dimes’ in a debt crisis that is demanding ‘half dollars and dollar bills.’  There have been huge run-ups in our discretionary spending since the president has come to office.  This is not the forum to debate the policies but I think the numbers speak for themselves: without the stimulus program the Commerce Department has increased from ’08 to ’10, 102.9 percent; without the stimulus, EPA has increased 35.7 percent; subtracting the stimulus, Housing and Urban Development has increased 22.2 percent; the State Department without the stimulus, up 132.2 percent, and the list goes on.  Again, it is not at this forum to debate these particular polices, but it is important to note the numbers—that when these particular budgets are growing, the family budget which pays for federal budget has unfortunately contracted, and it is the family budget that has to pay for the federal budget.

“As an order of magnitude, we know that the discretionary spending of our nation is roughly 40 percent and shrinking, our entitlement spending is roughly 60 percent of the budget and growing. We know outside of interest payments on our national debt that our mandatory spending is principally driven by our health care and retirement programs, which are simultaneously starting to disserve their beneficiaries and driving the nation broke as they grow at 5 and 6 and 7 percent a year where unfortunately our nation, over the last few years, has actually seen negative economic growth.”

“So to put this in even a larger context, under the Budget Control Act, we collectively have a goal—a goal of $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction, but we have a duty—a duty to provide recommendations in legislative language that will significantly improve the short-term and long-term fiscal imbalance of the federal government. Thus the challenge before us remains, that we must find quality health care solutions, quality retirement security solutions, for our nation at a cost that does not compromise our national security, does not compromise job growth and our economy, and does not mortgage our children’s future. 

“Everything else we do, including dealing with the discretionary budget, will be helpful. Nothing else will solve the structural debt crisis or allow this committee to meet its statutory duty; only these reforms. And so prudent stewardship of our discretionary budget is going to be helpful. It alone cannot solve the crisis. It continues, though, to be an important matter. I look forward to hearing from our witness, and with that I will yield back, Madam Chair.”