Yarmuth Denounces GOP Balanced Budget Amendment on House Floor
Washington, D.C. – Kentucky Congressman John Yarmuth, Ranking Member of the House Budget Committee, today spoke out against the GOP’s hypocritical and dangerous balanced budget amendment on the House floor. His remarks as prepared are below:
Mr. Speaker, just months ago we were here debating the so-called “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.”
During that debate, I warned that it was the first of the Republicans’ three step plan to give to the wealthy and make hard-working families pay the price.
Republicans were successful in enacting that tax scam, which gave more than 80 percent of the benefits to the top 1 percent. Just one company, Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, is now pocketing $218 million a week under this new law. They are not alone. These tax cuts are showering big corporations and Wall Street with taxpayer money, and at an obscene level.
That was step one. Step two —exploding our deficits – was confirmed this week by the Congressional Budget Office. They concluded that the GOP tax cuts will add nearly $2 trillion to the federal debt over the next decade.
That brings us to step three. Having provided millionaires and big corporations with huge tax cuts, that do little to grow our economy, the GOP has starved our government of revenues. So, naturally, they are using the resulting deficits as an excuse for massive cuts to programs that millions of Americans rely on—including Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid.
That’s what the amendment we are now considering would do. It would put in place a constitutionally mandated process solely designed to impose these extreme cuts. And that is because it comes packaged with the GOP’s near religious belief that tax cuts for the rich will save us all. They believe this despite the fact that history and nearly every respected economist will tell you that only way we can responsibly balance our budget is to include new revenues.
So let’s call this “balanced budget amendment” what it is: a stunt to give Republicans political cover for their deficit-exploding tax scam. The party of so-called fiscal hawks has become the party of fiscal hypocrites. They know it, and so do the American people.
And while this bill may be a political gimmick, it’s a dangerous one that would have dire consequences for our economy and American families.
To begin with, when in effect, it would require that the entire federal budget immediately be cut by at least 20 percent. That would be not just unprecedented, it would be devastating.
Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, veteran’s health care, infrastructure, job training, nutrition assistance, programs that help make housing affordable and higher education attainable, would all be jeopardized.
But that’s not all. This amendment would put an intolerable financial strain on every state in this country, forcing them to do far more with far less.
My state of Kentucky relies on federal funds to cover 37% of the Commonwealth’s expenditures, including 16% of education funding and 32% of transportation spending.
Speaker Ryan’s home state of Wisconsin relies on federal funds to cover 24% of expenditures.
Chairman Goodlatte’s home state of Virginia relies on federal funds to cover 20% of expenditures.
All of that is at risk under this amendment.
And it wouldn’t stop there. This amendment would not only threaten our ability to respond to economic crises, it would likely make them much worse. During economic downturns, Congress can help stimulate the economy by cutting taxes and increasing investments, as we did during the 2008 financial crisis. But if this amendment had been in place then, our economy would have been in serious jeopardy, facing a much higher risk of a full-on, prolonged depression and massive job losses. Should our country face another financial crisis, this amendment would be the worst policy, at the worst time.
So in sum, this amendment would threaten the retirement security of every senior who relies on Medicare or Social Security, and every working American paying into these programs now. It jeopardizes every federal program that helps our communities grow and hard-working families succeed. It places extreme financial strain on every state in the country.
And it makes it much harder for our government to respond to crises or even function effectively. Other than that, it’s a great idea.
Mr. Speaker, this is terrible policy that ignores reality and real consequences, and purely intended to save Republicans’ political rear-ends.
It’s not just me that is making this case. Republican Senator Bob Corker, stated recently, “Republicans control the House, Senate and White House. If we were serious about balancing the budget, we would do it. But instead of doing the real work, some will push this symbolic measure so they can feel good when they go home to face voters.”
Well said. If my Republican colleagues truly believe this is a good bill, that it is good for the American people, then it is time for them to go home.