Chairman Ryan Statement at Budget Hearing on Congressional Budget Office

2020-02-12 11:30

Congressman Tim Ryan (D-OH), Chair of the Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittee, delivered the following remarks at the Subcommittee's hearing on the Fiscal Year 2021 budget request for the Congressional Budget Office:

Welcome to our second hearing this morning, where we’ll be discussing the Congressional Budget Office and its appropriations request.

CBO has become so much a part of this institution that we may take it for granted.  But we should remember what a key role CBO plays in helping Congress effectively exercise the “power of the purse” assigned to us by the Constitution.

Before CBO was established in 1975, Congress largely depended on the executive branch for budget and economic analysis and estimates of the cost of proposed legislation.  With CBO, Congress has its own independent source of cost estimates for legislation, assessments of the President’s budget proposals, and projections of the future path of spending, revenues, and deficits.  We need to protect and strengthen that capacity.

The CBO budget requests $57.3 million, which is $2.4 million or 4.3 percent increase above FY 2020.  Virtually all of that is for personnel costs.  This funding would support existing staff and fully fund seven new employees hired in FY 2020, as well as the increased cost of federal benefits.

Furthermore, it is my understanding that this request will also support Dr. Swagel’s three initiatives which are to improve its responsiveness, CBO plans to make greater use of expert consultants in high-priority research areas, such as health policy. Set up an internal IT system to track and manage documents, which will help streamline some aspects of the process by which the agency provides information to Congress and, that $45 thousand be appropriated as no-year funding which would facilitate employees’ attendance at important academic conferences that are held near the beginning of the fiscal year.

This Subcommittee has highlighted the need for responsiveness and transparent CBO, and I believe CBO shares that objective.  For example, in recent years, CBO has been making more underlying data and details of its economic and budget projections publicly available.  It has been publishing more information about its models and methods, and more analyses of the accuracy of previous projections.  These are all welcome developments, and I want to hear about CBO’s future plans in this area.

I should note that the Appropriations Committees are the source of some of CBO’s heavy workload.  We need CBO’s help in making sure our bills add up to what they’re supposed to, and we need CBO cost estimates at each stage of legislative action. The Appropriations Committee gets great support from the people at CBO who do appropriations scorekeeping, which sometimes includes late nights, weekends, and holidays and on short notice. The Committee appreciates that, and I’m certain other committees similarly appreciate the people at CBO they work with.

Our witness today is Dr. Philip Swagel, who was appointed CBO director on June 3, 2019.  Previously, Dr. Swagel was a professor at the University of Maryland's School of Public Policy and a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and the Milken Institute. He has also taught at Northwestern University, the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business, and Georgetown University. His research has involved financial market reform, international trade policy, and China's role in the global economy. Before Dr. Swagel testifies, let me turn to our Ranking Member, Ms. Herrera Beutler, for her opening remarks.

116th Congress