Womack Remarks at FY24 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Bill Full Committee Markup
It is an honor to serve as Chairman of the Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee. I want to thank my friend—Chairwoman Kay Granger—for giving me this opportunity. Thank you, also, to Ranking Member DeLauro for her commitment to the work of this committee. And to my Ranking Member, Steny Hoyer, thank you for your leadership and friendship through the years. It’s a real privilege to work with you. I know that despite our disagreements on matters relating to our work today, we have a shared passion for doing the work of the American people. I trust it becomes evident as we move through this process.
A group of people we traditionally mention, but always fall short of adequately thanking for their work, are our staffs—both professional and personal. These are the unsung heroes of the Congress. I am witness to their steadfast devotion to duty. They impress me daily with their willingness to adjust to the fits and starts of this Committee as they manage to deliver the work product before you today. Thank you to all of you.
Colleagues, it should be no secret to any of you that I am not a fan of the current budget process. Many of you have expressed your disdain for it, as well. It is unacceptable to be two weeks from the August recess and only be a little over halfway home on Committee work. Simply put, the budget process is broken. We are failing the American people when we fail to produce legitimate budgets, execute appropriations on time, and deliver oversight on the agencies under our jurisdiction. And BOTH sides share the blame. Failure in any of these areas is a serious breach of trust with the American people. Our job as appropriators is to fund the government. Our government is designed to work. Our Article One authority is explicit. Only mortals can screw it up—and too often, we do.
It’s precisely how we get to $32 trillion in debt. It’s how we take on the burden of net interest on that debt—now the fourth largest line item in the federal budget—of more than $600 billion—and growing. It is not a sustainable direction. You know it. I know it. And the American people know it.
And while the attention in this town is focused on discretionary spending, it would be intellectually dishonest not to recognize that the majority of our fiscal issues are on the other side of the spending ledger. If Congress is truly committed to fixing our balance sheet, we must begin the conversation on mandatory spending. Like one’s personal health, you cannot ignore the symptoms and “wish” away this problem. It’s real.
What drove me to this committee was the powerful impact it has on our nation. The “power of the purse” cannot be overstated. The pressure to address the emerging needs of this country is intense. Like the bumper sticker I saw recently— 'so much shopping, so little money.'
But it’s our sworn duty. And this markup is but a small part of what we are all called to do to make government work.
The bill before us today provides $25.279 billion in non-defense discretionary spending across a number of critical agencies. It also includes $45 million in defense spending. The bill rejects over $6.3 billion in discretionary funding increases within the President’s Budget Request.
We will quibble about these numbers, but the bill represents an adequate level of funding, given our fiscal constraints.
We shift unused and unobligated funding totaling $13.4 billion away from the partisan Inflation Reduction Act that creates a super army of IRS agents poised to target individuals and small business owners. This bill, among other things, buttresses our financial markets, fights terrorism financing, and upholds our fair judicial system.
We demand in this bill that agencies concentrate on their CORE mission. The pursuit of a job-killing, burdensome and unnecessary regulatory agenda only serves to further bloat a federal bureaucracy that has become too big, too intrusive, and counter-intuitive to limited government. We move in that direction with this bill.
But, to be clear, the agencies under our jurisdiction perform important functions and while some may be your favorite piñata, they deserve our full attention.
As I said, our job is to fund the government. It’s thankless and hard duty. But this committee is equal to the task. Let our work begin.
I would now like to recognize my friend and Ranking Member, Steny Hoyer.