Van Hollen Opening Statement at Hearing on “Replacing the Sequester”
GOP has Doubled Down on Lopsided Approach to Deficit Reduction that Protects Wealthy and Special Interests at the Expense of Everyone Else
Washington, DC – Today Maryland Congressman Chris Van Hollen, Ranking Member of the House Budget Committee, delivered an opening statement at the House Budget Committee hearing on “Replacing the Sequester.” Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
Thank you, Chairman Ryan.
This hearing is an important opportunity to examine the budget sequester – and how it is we got to this point.
The Budget Control Act (BCA) was a difficult compromise to avert economic crisis and avoid a default on the country’s debt. It reduced spending over the next decade by about $900 billion and set in place an agreement to reduce the deficit by another $1.2 trillion. The sequester was included in the legislation as a last resort to encourage the Congress to develop a bipartisan alternative to achieve long-term deficit reduction. However, our Republican colleagues continue to resist the balanced approach to deficit reduction that has been recommended by every bipartisan group that has looked at the budget challenge. Republicans continue to oppose the idea that we should close even one special interest tax loophole for the purpose of deficit reduction.
This means that come January, this “Sword of Damocles” will go into effect, imposing indiscriminate, across-the-board cuts of almost $1 trillion – 50 percent from defense and 50 percent from non-defense spending. It is a meat-ax approach to deficit reduction that we should avoid.
There is no question that we need to reduce our deficit – and I think we all agree that the BCA’s slash-and-burn approach does not make sense for our country. These cuts would be too deep and too arbitrary. That's why both the President’s budget and the House Democratic alternative budget would replace these deep cuts with a plan to achieve greater deficit reduction from targeted, balanced policy choices.
But instead of working on a bipartisan solution to address these pending cuts, Republicans have doubled down on their lopsided approach to deficit reduction that protects the very wealthy and special interests at the expense of everyone else. Their solution is further cuts to vital services imposed through both the reconciliation instructions and the additional cuts in discretionary spending mandated by the Republican budget that violated the spending levels agreed upon in the BCA.
The process is not yet complete, but three of the six committees have already recommended cuts to vital services that will affect Americans in many ways. In fact, some of the cuts will hurt millions of low-income and disabled Americans at a time when millions remain out of work through no fault of their own and are struggling to make ends meet. They include:
- Eliminating the Social Services Block grant, which helps 23 million children and adults get essential services. This includes support for the Meals on Wheels program, prevention of child abuse and neglect, and child care for low-income parents returning to work.
- Cutting the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) that helps low-income households put food on the table – while not cutting a single unnecessary subsidy for big agri-business. The Republican plan reduces assistance to every single household receiving SNAP benefits almost immediately and cuts 1.8 million people off of food assistance entirely. Seventy-five percent of these households are families with children. In addition, nearly 300,000 children would lose free school meals, on top of losing the SNAP benefits that provide food at home. Once again, special interests win out over American families.
- Repealing the FDIC’s early intervention authority to shut down non-bank financial firms whose failures would have a significant negative impact. The Wall Street Reform law designed this early intervention authority to pay for itself over time, and repealing this authority means that taxpayers will likely have to pay the price if we ever have to bail out financial firms in the future.
This is all more of the same. The Republican budget ends the Medicare guarantee, raises the costs of student loans, increases the tax burden on middle-income Americans, and guts important investments in our economy – all to protect and expand tax breaks for the wealthy and special interests.
Democrats have taken a different approach – one that preserves the promises we’ve made to seniors, boosts job growth, and makes critical investments in our nation’s future. Both the President’s budget and the very similar Democratic alternative budget include specific and balanced deficit reduction plans, replacing the meat-ax cuts in the sequester with a combination of reductions from mandatory programs and revenues generated by eliminating tax loopholes and asking millionaires to return to the same top tax rate they paid during the Clinton administration.
I hope our Republican colleagues will ultimately choose to take the approach recommended by every bipartisan commission—a balanced approach to reducing the deficit and replacing the sequester.