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Yarmuth Opening Statement at Members’ Day Hearing on CBO Oversight

Mar 7, 2018

Washington, D.C. – Kentucky Congressman John Yarmuth, Ranking Member of the House Budget Committee, gave the following opening statement at today’s members’ day hearing on CBO oversight. Remarks as prepared are below:

 

Thank you, Chairman Womack, for holding this hearing today. I am pleased to join you in welcoming our witnesses for Members’ Day, our fourth CBO oversight hearing.

The Congressional Budget Act of 1974 created CBO. For more than 40 years, CBO, a nonpartisan agency, has provided Congress with objective and impartial information about budgetary and economic issues. The agency assists Congress by developing our nation’s fiscal and economic outlook, which helps us understand where we are and where we are going in terms of deficits and debt under current law. CBO also provides cost estimates for legislation being considered by Congress, which are extremely important in detailing a bill’s potential impact and its effects on deficits.   

CBO has never claimed, nor has it even been expected, to perfectly predict the future. If their staff could, I’m sure they would be in a much more profitable line of work. However, CBO and its experienced, nonpartisan analysts do provide their best estimates possible within the time and resource constraints that Congress gives them.

Nevertheless, CBO has recently been the target of harsh and sometimes unjust attacks. We may hear some of those criticisms today, but I hope the fact that just a handful of Members are testifying at this hearing is an indication that cooler heads are prevailing.

To be fair, Congress has a duty to review CBO’s work and ask questions about economic assumptions and methodologies used, and CBO should do its best to provide Congress with explanations for that work.  Democrats have certainly raised questions about CBO’s assumptions in the past and I’m sure we will in the future.

However, we, Democrats and Republicans, have not been given any reason to question the integrity of CBO or its analysts. In the three CBO oversight hearings we’ve already had this year, we’ve heard nothing that should lead anyone to doubt the character of CBO staff or the soundness of their work.

So I hope and expect that Members giving testimony today will focus on appropriate areas for oversight and will not sink to the level of making ad hominem attacks on CBO staffers or questioning the integrity or political impartiality of the institution. CBO tells Congress what we need to know, regardless of whether or not it’s what we want to hear. That is invaluable.

Mr. Chairman, I will not take any more time. I look forward to hearing what our colleagues have to add to this conversation today and yield back the balance of my time. 

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