Senator Patty Murray

Opening Statement

This hearing of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction will now come to order.

“As my co-chair Representative Hensarling mentioned at our meeting on Thursday, we have agreed to alternate chairing these hearings, with him chairing those held on the House side, and me the ones here in the Senate.

“I want to recognize all of my fellow committee members, as well as our witness, Dr. Elmendorf, for joining us.

“And I want to thank the members of the public here today—we appreciate your presence, and ask that you help us maintain decorum by refraining from any displays of approval or disapproval during the hearing.

“Before I start, I want to announce that the Joint Select Committee’s website is now up and running.

“Members of the public can go to deficitreduction.gov where they can provide input and ideas to the Committee, and where all public hearings will be streamed live starting today.

 “Today we are going to start off with brief opening statements from committee members—fifteen minutes for the Democrats, and then fifteen minutes for the Republicans.

“We will then hear from Dr. Elmendorf, and following his testimony we will have some time for questions and answers.

“The topic of today’s hearing is “The History and Drivers of Our Nation’s Debt and Its Threats.

 “I think this is a fitting opening for the difficult work this Committee has ahead of us.

“We are tasked with tackling a problem that wasn’t created overnight. That didn’t come about just in the last few years. Our debt and deficit problems have a lengthy and complex history. 

"And we will not be able to truly address them without a deep and honest understanding of the policies and circumstances that have led to where we are today.

“The challenges we face are real, and our task will not be easy—but I am confident we can get it done, because we’ve done it before.

“Like a number of my fellow committee members, I was here back in the ‘90s when we were facing serious deficits and a mounting public debt.

“And I was proud to work with President Clinton and Republicans in Congress to balance the budget in a way that truly worked for the American people.

“A way that made the smart cuts to government spending that were desperately needed, included revenues, and continued to make the strong investments in health care, education, and infrastructure that helped lay down a strong foundation for economic growth.

“The balanced and bipartisan work we did not only balanced the budget, and it not only helped set our country up to create millions of new jobs, but it also put us on track to completely pay down our debt by 2012—which was truly a great accomplishment.

“As we all know, a lot has changed since then. For many reasons, our deficit and debt have exploded in the years since. Some of these reasons have to do with government policies here at home, some with decisions made regarding our policies overseas—and others due to the financial and economic crisis that has devastated families and businesses here over the last few years.

“I am looking forward to hearing more about the scope and drivers of our deficit and debt from Dr. Elmendorf today.

“And I am confident the members of this Committee can help bring our nation together once again around a balanced and bipartisan path to fiscal health and economic growth.”