Van Hollen Opening Statement: Markup of the Concurrent Resolution on the Budget for Fiscal Year 2015
Washington, DC – Today Maryland Congressman Chris Van Hollen, Ranking Member of the House Budget Committee, made opening remarks at the House Budget Committee Markup of the Concurrent Resolution on the Budget for Fiscal Year 2015. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“Chairman Ryan and I agree on at least one thing – our budgets are a reflection of our vision for America. They reveal our priorities. They demonstrate what we value and what we don’t. They are about fundamental choices for the future direction of our nation.
“The President has presented a budget that will help boost job growth, sharpen America’s competitive edge, and expand opportunity. Now we have the Republican budget. Of all the reckless budgets our Republican colleagues have introduced, this one is the worst for America. Many will argue that this budget should not be taken seriously because it will go nowhere in the Senate. But the public should take it very seriously, because it tells people exactly what Republicans in Congress would do if they had the power to impose their will on the country.
“So what does this budget mean for America? What choices does it make?
“At its core, this budget rigs the rules for wealthy special interests at the expense of everyone else. It cuts the tax rates for multi-millionaires by one-third while it guts vital investments in our children’s futures, squeezes the middle class, and violates important commitments to our seniors.
“China and our economic competitors will eat our lunch in the global arena if we pass this budget. It provides perverse tax incentives to ship American jobs overseas while shortchanging investments in jobs here at home. As we will see today, it makes historically reckless cuts in areas that help power our economy – education, scientific research, innovation, advanced manufacturing, and diverse energy sources. All told, it cuts non-defense discretionary spending by a staggering $791 billion below the already unsustainable sequester level. That takes those investments to almost 40 percent lower as a share of the economy than at any time in the last 50 years.
“At a time when we should be modernizing our infrastructure, this budget slashes the transportation budget by a whopping $52 billion this year alone, stopping new projects and throwing construction workers off their jobs. It will condemn the United States to a pot-holed road of economic decline. And it rejects one measure that, according to the Congressional Budget Office, could immediately unleash more economic activity and grow our economy – comprehensive immigration reform.
“So let’s dig into some of these numbers. Our kids’ education is vital to a bright future for all of us. The saddest part of this budget is that is casts a dark shadow over the American Dream – it violates the fundamental promise that every hard-working American should have a fair shot at success. At a time when we should be investing more in education, it slashes funding for education, social services, and job training by over $145 billion. Title I, which helps ensure that students can meet challenging academic standards, would be unable to support the equivalent of about 8,000 schools, potentially resulting in 29,000 fewer teachers and their aides. Special education would take a big hit.
“After cutting these appropriations for education by $145 billion, it cuts current policy support for higher education by another $205 billion. Students who want to go to college will have a very tough time unless they are born into well-to-do families. This budget eliminates the one guaranteed source of Pell Grants, starts charging students interest on their loans while in college, discontinues the college tuition tax credits, and reverses new efforts to relieve the debt burden on many students.
“So much for wanting to address the lack of upward mobility. Rung by rung, this budget knocks steps off the ladder of opportunity. If you are to the manor born, cheers. For everyone else, this budget is a punch in the gut.
“Take seniors for our next example. Those on Medicare will immediately pay more for diagnostic screenings and other preventative health services. Those with high prescription drugs costs will see the donut hole re-opened and prices will skyrocket – seniors with high drug costs will pay nearly $1,200 more per year. Millions of seniors in nursing homes will be especially hurt by the reckless cuts to Medicaid. Over two-thirds of the base Medicaid program supports the elderly and the disabled and this budget slashes the Medicaid budget in its last year by a full 25 percent – in addition to repealing the Affordable Care Act expansion of the program. At the same time, it ends the current Medicare guarantee, forcing seniors who stay in fee-for-service care to face large premium increases. On top of all this, the Republican budget keeps the Medicare sequester cut on health providers in place to the tune of $140 billion.
“Middle class families are also hit, and will see their tax burden increase to finance windfall tax breaks for the very rich. It’s as if Chairman Camp’s reality based exercise in tax reform never happened. While Chairman Camp’s bill has a top rate of 35 percent, this budget calls for a top rate for millionaires of 25 percent. The math doesn’t change. Financing this tax break for the wealthy will mean an average tax increase of $2,000 for middle class families with children.
“This budget reserves perhaps its cruelest blow to those seeking to climb out of poverty and into the middle class. It reveals that Republicans’ post-election talk about seriously addressing poverty issues was just that – talk. During the last election, Governor Romney stated that he wasn’t focused on helping the 47 percent of struggling Americans, and this Republican budget sets out to prove it. This dog-eat-dog budget is nothing short of an assault on Americans struggling to stay afloat economically. It absolutely decimates safety net programs – like SNAP and Medicaid – designed to stop people from falling into deep poverty.
“We all remember the controversy in the Congress over the Republican plan to cut food and nutrition support by $40 billion. After much debate, the ultimate cut was $8 billion. This budget would now slash more than $125 billion, meaning millions of kids will be hungrier. It is premised on the false and pernicious notion that providing struggling families with minimal food and nutrition support saps their will to work. This is apparently the new Republican jobs plan – just take away food and nutrition support, and jobs will sprout up and people will flock to work. Give children dignity by taking away school lunch programs. Slash Medicaid because poor people are just lolling around in Medicaid hammocks. It is no wonder that faith groups have criticized past Republican budgets as failing to meet basic moral standards. This Republican budget is the worst yet.
“Our Republican colleagues say these bitter austerity measures are needed to reduce the deficit. But if that is really their paramount concern, why do they refuse to close a single special interest tax break to reduce the deficit? Republicans say they don’t want to pass on debts to future generations, but apparently don’t care enough to end a single break for the Koch brothers and other special interests. Why place all the burden of deficit reduction on the middle class, kids, seniors, and hard-working Americans who make their living earning wages rather than profits on tax-preferred hedge funds and stock options?
“Finally, and here’s the thing that must really upset our Republican colleagues, this budget doesn’t balance. It is a total fraud for Republicans to claim that this budget balances in ten years at the same time they have voted over 50 times to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Why? Because this budget includes all of the Medicare savings as well as the revenue from the ACA – which together amount to about $2 trillion. And this budget falls hundreds of billions of dollars short of balance in year ten without these Obamacare provisions. Republicans don’t repeal the entire Affordable Care Act. They repeal all the benefits of the law – like the tax credits that make insurance more affordable and the provisions that allow younger people to stay on their parents policies until age 26 – but Republicans keep all the ACA budget savings. So do not try to fool the American people. You can’t have it both ways: either you are for all the revenue and savings in the ACA or your budget doesn’t come close to balancing. When the Tea Party catches on to this sleight of hand, there will be hell to pay.
“The Republican budget is a deeply pessimistic vision of American. It will result in slower economic growth and widening income inequality. It will further empower entrenched special interests while dimming the American Dream for everyone else. We can do so much better, and this is a debate we should take to the country.”