Chairman Ryan Statement at Hearing on CBO's FY 2020 Budget Request

2019-02-26 12:20

Congressman Tim Ryan (D-OH), Chair of the Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittee, delivered the following remarks at the Subcommittee's hearing on the Congressional Budget Office's (CBO) FY 2020 budget request:

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 for 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 request we’re discussing today calls for a $2.8 million (or 5.6 percent) increase above FY 2019.  Virtually all of that is for personnel costs.  In addition to covering normal pay raises, the requested increase would allow continued modest growth in staffing levels to help keep up with CBO’s heavy workload, strengthen analytic capacity in key areas such as health care, and continue efforts to make CBO’s work as transparent as possible.

This subcommittee has highlighted the need for transparency in CBO’s estimates and analyses, 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 expect we’ll be hearing more today about 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.  I’m told that our committee gets great support from the people at CBO who do appropriations scorekeeping, including work on nights and weekends and on short notice.  We appreciate that, and I’m certain other committees similarly appreciate the people at CBO they work with.

Our witness today is Keith Hall, who was appointed CBO director in 2015.  Previously, Dr. Hall has held a number of other positions in government and economics, including as Chief Economist at the International Trade Commission and at the Department of Commerce, and as head of the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  He holds a PhD in economics from Purdue University.

Before Dr. Hall testifies, let me turn to our ranking member, Ms. Herrera Beutler, for her opening remarks.

116th Congress