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WITTMAN OPENING STATEMENT: House Budget Committee Members’ Day Hearing

As prepared for delivery.

In order to craft a responsible budget plan that addresses the needs of the United States, Congress must make the difficult, but essential, decisions about spending and challenging head-on the fiscal threats we face. Our repeated failure to control federal spending and address our mounting debt truly is the greatest long-term danger to this nation. Congress should fulfill their constitutional duty to produce a budget resolution that puts our nation on a fiscally sustainable path.  Sound fiscal footing fosters an environment for a strong economy, opportunities for growth, and prosperity for all people. If we keep letting our debt spiral out of control, we put our country at risk of a financial crisis. 

The federal government has an outstanding public debt of more than $28 trillion. Every year, since 1997, Congress has failed to maintain a fiscally responsible budget and, instead, has relied too much on raising the debt ceiling.  The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) March 2021 Long-Term Budget Outlook confirmed that the federal budget is on an unsustainable long-term trajectory.  According to the recent report, debt will be double the size of the economy by 2051. Under current law, CBO projects federal debt held by the public to rise from less than 80 percent of GDP at the end of FY 2019 to 202 percent of GDP by 2051. Under a more realistic scenario, debt could reach nearly 260 percent of GDP by 2051. 

The CBO also found that high debt levels will slow income and wage growth, increase interest payments, place upward pressure on interest rates, reduce the fiscal space available to respond to a recession or other emergency, place an undue burden on future generations, and heighten the risk of a fiscal crisis. Our current normal of not passing a balanced budget is irresponsible and poses a major national security threat. Both parties have failed to restore regular order in the budget and appropriations process and have become comfortable to passing irresponsible continuing resolutions and omnibus spending legislation. 

To address this issue, I have introduced multiple pieces of legislation. The No Budget, No Pay Act would prohibit members of the House or Senate from receiving pay if their respective chamber does not pass a budget by April 15, 2021. You cannot continue to budget on this step-by-step process and create the certainty necessary for the federal agencies and the American people.  The Inaction Has Consequences Act mandates that if Members don’t complete appropriations bills by the end of the fiscal year, their pay is withheld. If Members of Congress cannot get their most basic responsibility of funding our government done, we must be held accountable.

Finally, the Stay on Schedule Resolution changes congressional procedure to prohibit the House from taking a recess in August, unless it has passed all twelve appropriations bills individually by July 31, 2021.

This Resolution, in conjunction with my other legislation – the No Budget No Pay Act and the Inaction has Consequences Act – will put the proper accountability measures in place to ensure Congress gets its primary job done on time. 

It is time to finally pass measures, like mine, that will hold Members to a higher standard and complete the work of the people. This level of transparency and accountability is critical not only to get the budget process under control but also to rein in wasteful spending. We have a lot of work to do to get this fiscal crisis under control and to make sure we don’t burden future generations; it should not be their job to clean up this mess. 

Congressman Rob Wittman represents the 1st District of Virginia. He serves on the House Natural Resources Committee and the House Armed Services Committee, where he serves as the Vice Ranking Member of the full Committee and Ranking Member of the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee.