Senator Patty Murray

“The Committee will come to order. First, I want to thank my co-chair Representative Hensarling, my fellow committee members, and Dr. Elmendorf for joining us today—as well as the members of the public here in person or watching at home.

“This committee has been working hard over the last few weeks to come together around a balanced and bipartisan plan to reduce the deficit and rein in the debt. 

“We have received input from: our colleagues, standing House and Senate Committees, groups from around the country, and close to 185,000 members of the public through our website, deficitreduction.gov.   And we continue our work today with a hearing on “Discretionary Outlays, Security and Non-Security.”

“I am glad we are talking about this today, because it’s important for us to understand how these pieces fit into our overall deficit and debt.  

“Non-defense discretionary spending represents less than one-fifth of total federal spending. But listening to the debates here in D.C. over the last few months—you would think this small piece of the pie was a whole lot bigger.

“As I expect we’ll hear more about from Dr. Elmendorf today, Congress has gone back to this relatively small pot with cuts and spending caps again and again—while leaving many other pieces of the budget essentially untouched.  Including the law that created this Joint Committee, which cut roughly $800 billion in discretionary spending.

“And all the focus on this one area is especially striking given that we are spending roughly the same on non-defense discretionary programs in 2011 as we did in 2001—while mandatory programs have increased, defense spending has increased, and revenues have plummeted.

“So as this committee works together toward a bipartisan plan to reduce the deficit, we need to keep in mind the cuts that have already been made, the role discretionary spending plays in our overall deficit and debt problem, and the impact irresponsible slashing could have on our economic recovery and middle class families across the country.

“Because as we all know—these aren’t just numbers on a page. They affect real people, in real ways. 

“When food assistance for women and infants is cut—that means greater challenges for struggling families.

“When infrastructure investments are shelved—that means fewer jobs and more crumbling roads.

“And when research, education, and student loans are slashed—that means fewer opportunities for our businesses and the next generation of workers. Which is really no savings at all—since we end up paying for it in the future.

“So while we should certainly examine every piece of the budget to see where we can responsibly make additional cuts—it doesn’t make sense to simply keep slashing at one small part of the budget that disproportionally affects middle class families and the most vulnerable Americans.

“There needs to be balance.

“Today, Dr. Elmendorf will also be discussing discretionary security spending, which has grown significantly in the years since 9/11.

“This is an area where the stakes for our nation are high. From both a national security as well as a budgetary perspective—we need to get this right. And as many of my colleagues have noted over the past few weeks, it’s an area that would be hit especially hard if this Committee doesn’t come to a deal and we move to sequestration.

“So I’m looking forward to a robust conversation today with my colleagues and Dr. Elmendorf about these critical pieces of our federal budget.

“Before I turn it over to my co-chair, I just want to say that over the last few weeks this committee has been working hard to find common ground and a path toward a balanced and bipartisan plan that can pass through Congress and get signed into law.

“We aren’t there yet, but I’m confident we are making progress. And I’m hopeful we are moving quickly enough to meet our rapidly-approaching deadline. 

“As I have said from the start, if this committee is going to work—and I believe it must—we all need to be willing to make some tough decisions and real compromises. I am willing to do that. And I know many of my colleagues are as well.

“Every day we hear more and more about what the effects of failure would be on our nation’s long-term fiscal health and creditworthiness.  And over the next few weeks, it is going to be up to all of us to demonstrate to the American people that we can deliver the kind of results they expect and deserve.

“I would now like to recognize my co-chair, Representative Hensarling, for his opening statement.”