Transcript: Democratic Rep. Chris Van Hollen calls Obama’s budget ‘good for the country’
Remarks by Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) on President Obama’s 2013 federal budget (Feb. 13, 2012):
“The President’s budget is a budget that’s good for the country. It’s good for jobs. It’s good in terms of nurturing a very fragile economy. It’s good in terms of making long-term investments in education, in science and research, in innovation – the things that we going to need for a strong foundation for the economy years and years to come.
“And it’s good because it takes a balanced approach to deficit reduction.
“This chart here tells a very important story. Let me just pick up the story that Sen. [Kent] Conrad was telling it. As you can see, back in January 2009 – the very month the President put his hand on the bible and was sworn in – the economy was in total free fall. Negative 7% GDP. Losing 840,000 jobs every month. So the bottom was falling out of the economy and what you see is – as a result of the actions taken by the President and the Congress at the time in passing the Recovery Act and actions taken by other players in the economy – we began to stop the free fall and turn the corner. And the reality is since March of 2010, we’ve seen over 3.5 million private sector jobs created. The most recent good news being 250,000 private sector jobs added last month.
“So what does the President’s budget do about this? It says we’ve got to be very careful not to mess up a very fragile recovery. And that’s why he calls for immediate additional investments in the economy. We’ve got to get the payroll tax cut passed. We’ve got to extend unemployment insurance for millions of Americans who are out of work through no fault of their own. We’ve got to take care a number of immediate steps.
“A good part of that part of the President’s budget was what the President submitted to Congress last September when he came before a joint session in the House chamber. At that time, he called for a payroll tax cut extension. He called for an extension of unemployment insurance. But he also called for a number of provisions that Sen. Conrad mentioned. He said let’s make a $50 billion infrastructure investment. Let’s invest $30 billion in schools. Let’s make sure that during these tough times state and local governments have enough resources to prevent layoffs of teachers and firefighters.
“After all, this is a very good news story. I think as many of you know if you were going to look at the public sector job performance over the last many months, we’ve actually seen layoffs in that sector. That’s in large part because the Recovery [Act] money was invested in the first two years. It’s no longer there, and it’s because Republicans in the House have refused to take action on the President’s jobs bill. It’s as simple as that. This budget says, ‘Pass my jobs bill. Pass the jobs bill that’s been sitting in front of the House of Representatives since last September.’
“We’re pleased that – we’re hoping that we’ll be able to move a small piece of it – the payroll tax cut and unemployment insurance.
“As many of you have heard or have been listening on the conference committee, our Republican colleagues keep wanting to talk about extraneous issues when we talk about extending the payroll tax cut. They want to clamp down on Clean Air regulations, mercury regulations. Well, debate those on their own merits. Don’t allow them to slow down the payroll tax cut and jeopardize this very fragile economy. So that’s one thing the President’s budget does.
“The other very important thing that it does is put us on a balanced path toward long-term deficit reduction. As Sen. Conrad pointed out, at the end of this 10-year period, you will reduce the deficit to 2.8% of GDP under the President’s plan. You will stabilize the debt as a percentage of GDP. In fact, it begins to take it on a downward trajectory in the last couple of years of the President’s budget – the end of the 10-year window. And he does it in a balanced way. He does it through a combination of cuts.
“We’ve made substantial discretionary cuts already. We already cut $1 trillion off the discretionary budget through caps that have been set. That takes the discretionary budget down to the lowest percentage as a function of GDP since the Eisenhower administration.
“The President’s budget also makes cuts in the mandatory spending categories.
“But the President also says, rightly, that we need a balanced approach. That we’ve got to ask the folks who’ve been taking advantage of all these tax loopholes to share a greater responsibility for reducing the deficit. That we should ask, you know, the folks at the very top – the top 2% – to go back to the same tax rates they were paying during the Clinton administration – a period of time where we saw very rapid job growth. And so the President takes a balanced approach.
“Now, I heard our Republican colleagues today bashing the President’s budget. I’m looking forward to seeing theirs because if theirs this year looks like theirs last year? Here’s how they deal with the deficit. They’d gut our investments in education – in our kids’ preparedness for school. They’d gut our investment in science and research and the drivers of innovation. And they’d gut our investment in infrastructure – our roads, our bridges, our highways. They’d gut all that. And what else do they do? They’d totally shred the social safety net. They’d just wipe it out. They’d cut Medicaid by one-third – over $70 billion. These are funds that help vulnerable seniors in nursing homes and many others. They’d, of course, end the Medicare guarantee. They’d say to seniors, ‘You know what? We’re projecting rising health care costs. You’re on your own. You have to eat them yourselves.’
“And so the question is not whether we reduce the deficit. The President’s budget does that – takes the deficit down to 2.8% of GDP, begins to stabilize the debt as a percentage of GDP. It does that. But it doesn’t do it the way the Republicans do it because the President asks for everyone to share in the responsibility for getting that job done. And he insists on closing some of these special interest tax breaks. He insists on getting rid of some of the incentives to ship American jobs overseas. We all want to be shipping products and services overseas. We don’t want to be shipping American jobs overseas.
“So the Republicans have a different view. They don’t want one penny to go to deficit reduction if it involves closing the corporate loophole. Not one penny. A lot of them signed a pledge – we’re going to protect all those loopholes if it comes to closing them for the purpose of deficit reduction.
“So the President does that in a balanced way, reduces the deficit in a balanced way, focuses in the immediate term on making sure we get the economy going and don’t jeopardize this very positive but very fragile trajectory we’re seeing – upward trajectory – when it comes to jobs.”
- Rep. Chris Van Hollen’s (D-Md.) website
- C-Span.org: Video of Democrat’s press briefing on President Obama’s 2013 budget
- WhatTheFolly.com: Transcript: Democratic Sen. Kent Conrad commends Obama’s budget for responsibly reducing long-term deficit & strengthening economic growth
- WhatTheFolly.com: Transcript: Press briefing Q&A with Democratic lawmakers on Obama’s 2013 budget
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