Transcript: Super Committee co-chair Sen. Patty Murray’s opening statement on discretionary spending & deficit reduction

Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction Hearing on Discretionary Spending, Security & Non-Security on Oct. 26, 2011

Transcript of Opening Statement by Committee Co-Chair Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA):

Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), Co-Chair of the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction. PHOTO SOURCE:

“First of all, thank you to my co-chair, Rep. Hensarling, all of my fellow committee members and Dr. Elmendorf for joining us here today, as well as members of the public here in person or watching us at home.

“This committee has been working very hard over the last few weeks to come together around a balanced and bipartisan plan to reduce the deficit and reign in the debt. We’ve heard from our colleagues. We’ve heard from the standing House and Senate committees, from groups around the country, and close to 185,000 members of the public through our website, We continue our work now today with a hearing on discretionary outlays, security and non-security.

“I’m glad we’re talking about this today, because it’s important for us to understand how these policies fit in to our overall deficit and debt.

“Non-defense discretionary spending represents less than one-fifth of total federal spending. Listening to the debates here in D.C. over the last few months, you would think this small piece of pie was a whole lot bigger. As I expect, we’ll hear more about that from Dr. Elmendorf today. Congress has gone to this relatively small pot with cuts and spending caps again and again while leaving many other pieces of the budget essentially untouched, including the law that created this joint committee which cut roughly $800 billion in discretionary spending. And all the focus on this one area is especially striking given we are spending about the same on non-defense discretionary programs in 2011 as we did in 2001. Meanwhile, mandatory programs increased, defense spending increased, and revenues plummeted.

“So if this committee works together on a bipartisan plan to reduce the deficit, we need to keep in mind the cuts that have already been made, the role discretionary spendings plays in our overall deficit and debt problem, and the impact irresponsible slashing could have on our economic recovery and middle-class families across the country. As we all know, these aren’t just numbers on a page. They affect real people in real ways. When food assistance for women and infants is cut, that means greater challenges for struggling families. When infrastructure investments are shelved, that means fewer jobs and more crumbling bridges and roads. And when research, education, and student loans are slashed, that means fewer opportunities for our businesses and the next generation of workers, which is really no savings at all since we end up paying for it in the future.

“So while we should certainly examine every piece of the budget to see where we can responsibly make additional cuts, it doesn’t make sense to simply keep going after one small part of the budget that disproportionately affects middle-class families and the most vulnerable Americans. There has to be balance.

“Today, Dr. Elmendorf will be discussing discretionary security spending, which has grown significantly in the years since 9/11. This is an area where the stakes for our nation are high from both the national security as well as the budgetary perspective. We’ve got to get this right. As many of my colleagues have noted over the past few weeks, this is an area that would be hit especially hard if this committee doesn’t come to a deal and we move to sequestration. So I look forward to a robust conversation today with Dr. Elmendorf about these critical pieces of our federal budget.

“Before I turn it over to my co-chair, I just want to say that over the last few weeks, this committee has been working very hard to find common ground and a path towards a balanced and bipartisan plan that can pass through this committee, through Congress, and get signed into law. We aren’t there yet, but I am confident that we are making progress, and I’m hopeful we are moving quickly enough to meet our rapidly approaching deadline. As I’ve said from the start, if this committee is going to work – and I believe that it must – we all need to be willing to make some tough decisions and real compromises. I am willing to do that, and I know many of my colleagues are as well. Everyday, we hear more and more about the effects of failure that would be on our nation’s long-term fiscal health and credit-worthiness. Over the next few weeks, it’s going to be up to all of us to demonstrate to the American people that we can deliver the kind of results that they expect and that they deserve.”



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