Chairman Yarmuth’s Remarks Before House Rules Committee on 2021 Budget Resolution

Feb 2, 2021

Washington, D.C.— Today, Kentucky Representative John Yarmuth, Chair of the House Budget Committee, testified before the House Rules Committee on H. Con. Res. 11, the Concurrent Resolution on the Budget for Fiscal Year 2021. The 2021 budget resolution will provide an alternative path for President Biden’s American Rescue Plan, giving Congress the option of using a reconciliation measure to provide critical COVID relief to the American people and addressing the twin health and economic crises facing the United States. Remarks as prepared are below:

Yesterday, I introduced the Concurrent Resolution on the Budget for Fiscal Year 2021, a bill with a single purpose: providing Congress with the option of using a budget reconciliation measure to get vital relief to the American people as quickly as possible. As Chairman of the House Budget Committee, I am honored to present this bill to the Rules Committee today in advance of floor action.

The bipartisan legislation enacted by Congress in December was a step in the right direction, but it was only a step, and a long-delayed one at that. The coronavirus pandemic and the resulting economic fallout continue to destroy lives and livelihoods across the country. The United States continues to set record high infection and death rates, millions of Americans remain out of work as families are pushed to the brink of devastation, and our economy faces lows unseen since the Great Depression. 

We are not on the other side of this. We are deep in the trenches. COVID is getting worse not better. Our recovery is painful and the most unequal on record. We have to do much more. A lot more.

President Biden’s American Rescue Plan lays out an aggressive legislative package to change the direction of these crises, including: a national vaccine program; testing and tracing, paid sick leave to stop the spread; an extension of lifeline unemployment benefits that are set to expire in March; direct financial support for families so they can pay rent and put food on the table; and support so schools can operate safely.

Our country desperately needs this relief. And economists across the ideological spectrum agree. Past crises have made it clear that doing too little will cost us far more. Weak support will lead to a weak, prolonged, and K-shaped recovery, creating unnecessary hardship for families and small businesses and posing a more severe risk to our economic and budget outlooks than any deficits we might incur. Without the American Rescue Plan, CBO estimates it will take at least three years before employment returns to pre-pandemic levels. But with this vital support, economists estimate that we can bring the economy back to near full employment in a little over 12 months.

We have the plan and ability to do this. And, thankfully, we can also afford to do it. Interest rates and inflation are at historic lows – lower today than before the pandemic – and the return on smart investments in the economy have never been higher.  Economists of all stripes are telling us, begging us, to use the fiscal space we have. They are warning that if we don’t go big, we will be responsible for a long, painful, and unequal recovery that will cost more lives and more jobs, that will cause more businesses to close, and result in more damage to our nation’s economy both in the short- and long-term.

So what is the debate here?

The need is clear – we are experiencing record COVID infections and deaths, millions are unemployed, and small businesses are closing every day.

The plan has strong bipartisan support from the people we represent – polling shows that 74% of Americans – Democrats, Republicans, and Independents – support the relief measures laid out in the package. And not just the relief package in general, the specific, targeted provisions in the bill.

Is it the price tag? Economists across the ideological spectrum agree that not doing this relief package will cost us far more.

That we are moving too fast? January was the deadliest month yet for COVID. Every 28 seconds an American died from the coronavirus. We don’t need to slow down; we need to hurry the hell up.

The resolution’s budget reconciliation framework sets a budgetary target of up to $1.9 trillion – the estimated cost of the American Rescue Plan – allocated across the 12 House committees that have jurisdiction over some portion of the plan. The resolution instructs these committees to report legislation consistent with these budgetary targets to the Budget Committee by February 16. The Budget Committee will then combine the legislation and prepare it for floor consideration.

This budget resolution does not provide a comprehensive fiscal blueprint for the next 10 years. Once this vital relief package becomes law, Congress can begin its work on a forward-looking, comprehensive budget resolution for 2022.

The quicker we act the more lives can be saved and the faster our economy will recover. We welcome Republican support but are prepared to move forward without it. The human and economic costs are far too great.

As the committee considers this legislation, I ask for a rule that will allow for meaningful debate.

I look forward to taking your questions.

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