Co-Chair Womack's Opening Remarks at Fifth Public Hearing of the Joint Select Committee on Budget and Appropriations Process Reform
As prepared for delivery during today's hearing:
Good morning, and welcome to the fifth public hearing of the Joint Select Committee on Budget and Appropriations Process Reform.
The most important role given to Congress under Article I of the Constitution is the power of the purse. Our panel is charged with ensuring we have a working process in order to fulfill this essential duty.
During our hearings so far, we have identified some of the recurring challenges that need to be addressed. These have been extremely productive discussions.
I was especially pleased to see the level of engagement from and hear the ideas of members outside of this committee during our Members’ Day hearing.
While we have discussed the annual budget resolution at length during a previous hearing, today we are going to focus on what is supposed to happen next: the consideration of appropriations bills.
Especially in a reform-focused committee like ours, we certainly need to be mindful of past processes and let history’s successes – and failures – guide us.
And the fact of the matter is that the current process needs improvement. Both sides of the aisle agree.
We on this panel are charged with designing a neutral process for the future – one in which Congress can move forward with its budgetary agenda, no matter which party holds the majority.
Budgetary priorities, outcomes, and results should come from elections. Thus, a properly functioning budget and appropriations process should be neutral to specific outcomes.
That being said: As we engage in conversation today, I urge members to think about designing a process for the future. I believe we can do that by considering what the modern Congress can handle right now and anticipating the issues future Congresses might need endure.
Without question, I have tremendous respect for the decades of experience that will come before us today. But I want to challenge us all to think about how that experience can be applied to what future office holders will face as they try to fund the government on time.
To help us think through the current appropriations process, including its link to the annual budget resolution, we are pleased to welcome two incredibly distinguished and experienced witnesses.
While both witnesses served on the same side of the aisle, their perspectives demonstrate that the issues we are trying to fix transcend party lines.
In fact, as I was thinking through potential witnesses, one name quickly stood out in my mind: Leon Panetta. This is an individual whose seasoned career encompasses many positions that are relevant to our deliberations.
He has served as a congressional staffer, executive branch official, advisor to the mayor of New York, Chairman of the House Budget Committee in Congress, White House Chief of Staff, Director of the Office of Management and Budget, Director of the CIA, and finally, Secretary of Defense. Given his tremendous background, I knew his presence at this hearing today was vital.
Secretary Panetta, it is an honor to have you. Thank you for being here.
We are also very pleased to welcome David Obey, who served for decades as part of the Wisconsin delegation in Congress. During his tenure, he led as both Ranking Member and Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. Chairman Obey, thank you for being here today.
Thank you, and with that, I yield to my co-chair, Ms. Lowey, for her brief opening remarks.