Washington, D.C.— Kentucky Congressman John Yarmuth, Chairman of the House Budget Committee, gave the following opening statement at today’s markup of the Investing for the People Act of 2019 (H.R. 2021). Remarks as prepared are below:
Today, this Committee will consider the Investing for the People Act, a two-year budget to stabilize discretionary funding levels, provide appropriators with required spending toplines, and ensure Congress can meet its obligations to the American people.
We are in a precarious time in the budget process. We face austerity level budget caps if Congress fails to act. Congress is divided, with the Republican Senate reluctant to bring its own budget to the floor. And alarmingly, we have a President whose word neither party can rely on. A President who, by the way, has bragged about shutting down the federal government, and who submitted a budget so irresponsible that it is unusable.
With a President as unreliable and undisciplined as this, Congress must be pragmatic. That is why the two-year budget we will mark-up today raises sequestration caps to stop extreme cuts from being implemented, helps prevent another government shutdown, gets us past the distraction and politics of the 2020 elections, and achieves stability and responsible governing in the face of recklessness.
The bill is titled the “Investing for the People Act” for a reason. The United States did not become an economic powerhouse and world leader overnight. Throughout our history, we have made strategic investments in our people, our economy, and our security that allowed us to innovate and grow, while promoting broad-based economic opportunity. From the development of the Interstate highway system, the creation of the internet, groundbreaking medical research, helping students afford a college education, and ensuring the safety of our water and air, the American people have long reaped the benefits of the investments they have called on their government to make.
The Investing for the People Act will build on that legacy. By raising the non-defense and defense caps for 2020 and 2021, the bill will empower Congress to make strong investments in our national and economic security and move our nation forward.
The legislation sets the 2020 non-defense discretionary (NDD) cap at $631 billion, which represents a $34 billion or 5.7 percent increase above the 2019 cap. It sets the 2020 defense cap at $664 billion, which represents a $17 billion or 2.6 percent increase from the 2019 level. For 2021, the NDD and defense caps would be set at $646 billion and $680 billion, respectively. These numbers do not include funding for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO), which would be capped at no higher than the 2019 levels to avoid further misuse.
We find ourselves here because nearly a decade ago, the Budget Control Act of 2011 used the threat of deep cuts to both defense and non-defense spending levels to force an agreement on a wider deficit reduction package. The sequestration caps were designed to be so drastic and so painful that they would never be implemented. As a result, Congress was forced to come together to raise the caps. We did it in 2012, 2013, 2015, and 2018.
It is time for us to act again. NDD spending already sits near historic lows and if Congress doesn’t establish new caps this year, all discretionary programs will take a 10-percent hit. This will result in devastating cuts to important programs and services that millions of Americans need — including improving public health, providing education and job training, caring for our veterans, investing in infrastructure, and promoting a strong economy.
I know my Republican colleagues will attack this bill for not being a 10-year budget. What they are less enthusiastic to point out is they failed a bring a 10-year budget to the House floor when they had complete control of the House, Senate and White House. We face a divided government, so the challenge is even more difficult. So given the timing and the obstacles ahead of us, the realistic and responsible path is to act on the immediate need to raise the budget caps — not spend time on symbolic gestures that fail to move this process or our country forward.
This bill provides the Appropriations Committee clear top-line budget levels so they can craft the must-pass legislation needed to fund our government. This will help us avoid a continuing resolution or, at worst, another government shutdown, both of which cause uncertainty, inefficiency, and unnecessary harm.
By passing the Investing for the People Act, we in the House will be doing our jobs, following regular order, and ensuring the needs and priorities of our families and communities are met. I have always maintained that budgets are about our values, and with this legislation, we will show the American people that we value their security, their opportunities, and their future.
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