WASHINGTON, DC – House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (MD) spoke on the Floor today in support of the House Democratic budget, which passed the House. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“Today, with the passage of this budget resolution, the House has the opportunity to set America’s priorities for years to come and build a sustainable, widely-shared recovery. Along with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, this budget is a key part of our return to prosperity; it provides the long-term investments that will make prosperity last. Today we have a chance to begin bringing down the cost of health care; breaking our addiction to foreign oil; creating the best-prepared workforce in the world; and returning America to fiscal health.
“On health care, it is clear that rising costs are straining American families and crippling American businesses. Family premiums have more than doubled since 2000, and over the past five years, our total health care spending has increased at more than twice the rate of inflation, consuming more of our economy and our budget each year. This budget is the start of efforts to reverse that disastrous trend. It makes a significant down-payment on reform, taking steps to lower health care costs, improve quality, and expand access. Health care reform is also key to entitlement reform, because we will never be able to control the growth in Medicare and Medicaid spending as long as health care costs continue to increase at more than twice the rate of inflation.
“On energy, this budget increases support for energy independence programs by 18%. That includes incentives for the development of new technology and clean energy jobs; support for cutting-edge research; funding to start on an energy-efficient, money-saving national smart grid; and programs to help government from the federal to the local level save energy and money.
“On education, this budget builds upon the investments made in President Obama’s recovery plan with additional support for early childhood education, elementary and secondary school students, and efforts to help more Americans obtain a college degree. It expands access to early childhood programs, makes college more affordable with increased Pell Grants, and promotes job-training and significant education reform. A lasting recovery isn’t simply about ending the turmoil in our financial markets—it’s about having workers who are prepared to compete in the 21st-century economy with anyone in the world.
“Finally, this budget reverses the irresponsible Republican policies that turned record surpluses into record deficits and puts us back on a fiscally sustainable path. That begins with an honest accounting of where we are—an assessment that takes into account the cost of two wars. From that honest foundation, the budget cuts the deficit from 10.5% of GDP in 2009 to 3.5% of GDP in 2013. In other words, we cut the deficit by nearly two-thirds. We do so by restraining spending, investing in oversight that saves taxpayer money, and, most importantly, reinstating the pay-as-you-go rule in law and requiring that new initiatives be paid for. Our government must pay for what it buys.
“Republicans, by contrast, would abandon that discipline in favor of a $3.6 trillion tax cut, which the non-partisan Tax Policy Center calls ‘by far, the largest tax cut in history’—one that goes almost exclusively to the richest Americans. Paying for tax breaks like those, as Mr. Ryan proposes to do, would require deep cuts to vital services. So taking the massive tax breaks to their logical conclusion, Republicans support cutting Medicare, Medicaid, and a host of other essential programs that are critical to our economic recovery. As the Washington Post notes today, the Ryan substitute would ‘freeze most government spending for five years, halt spending approved in the economic stimulus package, and slash federal health programs for the poor and elderly.’
“When Republicans claim their budget will create jobs, they conveniently ignore the impact that the deep spending cuts in their plan would have on jobs. Virtually all economists, including conservatives such as Milton Friedman, agree that government spending during a recession creates jobs. In fact, when we use the model of the conservative Heritage Foundation and take into account both tax cuts and spending cuts, we find that the Republican plan destroys jobs.
“Of course, Republicans have another option to finance their tax breaks—increasing our deficit and piling up our debt even higher. That would be in keeping with the fiscal ideology that has dominated among Republicans as long as I have served in this House, the dogma summed up by Vice President Cheney: ‘Reagan proved deficits don’t matter.’
“Our country has come to see the foolishness of that belief—and I think it has also come to see that only one party has a track record of responsibly reducing deficits. Chairman Spratt put it well: ‘Republicans turn surpluses into deficits. Democrats turn deficits into surpluses.’
“The Republican case on substance is truly weak—and their argument on process is weaker. Republicans have repeatedly decried this budget’s use of the reconciliation process to provide for a majority, up-or-down vote on health care and education if Congress has not reached agreement on these issues so critical to our economic recovery. But the truth is that both parties have used reconciliation to implement the policies assumed in budget resolutions. Under President Bush, it was the Republican option of first resort to pass irresponsible tax cuts; under this budget, it is simply a fallback if partisanship blocks progress.
“I urge my colleagues to vote for this budget—one of the most important votes they will take in this Congress. This is our chance to build the foundation for recovery and plan wisely for the long term. We cannot miss it.”