Romney: The Budget Committee Must Stop its Theater and Start Acting to Restore Fiscal Responsibility

At hearing, Romney highlights the performative nature of the Senate Budget Committee, argues that the President’s budget proposal is an unserious attempt that has no chance of becoming law

WASHINGTON—At a Budget Committee hearing today to discuss the President’s budget proposal, U.S. Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) railed against the unserious nature of the Committee in the midst of our country’s debt crisis. Out of the 29 Budget Committee hearings this Congress, only three have dealt with the topic of the budget—while 14 of them have been on climate change. He urged the Committee to address the topics actually under its jurisdiction and get serious about addressing the budget and debt.

In an exchange with Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Shalanda Young, Senator Romney argued that the Administration has put out a budget proposal it knows has no chance of becoming law, and that in order to get legislation passed, Republicans and Democrats have to actually work together. Romney also offered his bipartisan, bicameral Fiscal Stability Act as a viable solution to getting a handle on our debt.

A transcript of Senator Romney’s exchange with OMB Director Young can be found below and full video can be found here.

Senator Romney: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. It’s appropriate that this hearing is being held during Academy Awards season. I’m afraid what we do here is more Barbie than it is Oppenheimer. The public thinks we work on the budget, but we don’t. You realize in the time I’ve been in this Committee, we’ve never met privately. We’ve never come together and negotiated and given some give and take and come up with proposals to somehow get us closer to a balanced budget or deal with the debt. Frankly, the only time we meet is in these hearings. And if you’ve been watching over the 118th Congress, you realize that we’ve had 28 hearings before today. Do you know how many of those hearings have been on the budget? Two! Now, I’m concerned about the climate, but 14 of our hearings have been on climate change. For instance, “the cost of oil dependence in a low carbon world: how climate change is changing the insurance market; the real cost of fossil fuels: how the climate crisis threatens ocean industries.” These are important topics. They just don’t belong in the Budget Committee! This is a committee that’s about performing, getting on stage, and acting like we care about these things. But there’s actually no work being done by this Committee to deal with our budget and to deal with federal spending.

Now, we pretend we’re going to be bringing down the deficit, but the Administration is comparing our spending to the COVID years. And any American knows that we spent a massive amount of money to deal with the COVID crisis and to help American families. And pretending like we’re cutting the deficit when we’re comparing to a COVID year is absurd. Now, people on both sides of the aisle, including economists, say that the increase in debt is unsustainable, that raising debt as a percentage of the GDP cannot go on forever. And we’re apparently not in the position to do the job because we won’t even meet to talk about it. So my question is, does the Administration support the idea brought forward by Senator Manchin and myself in our chamber—but also in the House by two leaders there—to put in place a bipartisan, bicameral commission to look at ways to see if we can’t hold the debt as a percentage of GDP at a constant level. Does the Administration support that legislation?

OMB Director Young: Senator, lots of commissions, the House Budget Committee just passed a fiscal commission. I won’t pick among commissions that are flowing…

Romney: Do you think that’s a good idea?

Young: What I will say is it will take bipartisan solutions to deal with our fiscal path. We’re putting a path forward here. I know you may not agree on the revenue proposals.

Romney: But you see, in order to have a proposal that actually becomes law, it takes both sides to come together. I can put a proposal out there that I know has no chance of passing and pretend like I’m doing something responsible. The Administration puts a proposal out it knows has no chance whatsoever passing—because we have Republicans and Democrats. We have to come together and work together, but we don’t. It’s this sleight of hand, which is “look at all the things we’re doing, we get a proposal that makes it work.” You don’t have a proposal that actually would get accomplished because you can’t bring together both parties to do it. The sleight of hand—I mean, the President said the other night that these wealthy, I think billionaires he was describing, pay only 8% in tax. Well, what he didn’t say was that he wasn’t talking about an income tax. I mean, it was very disingenuous—a sleight of hand. Again, Academy Awards worthy. He’s not talking about the income tax they pay. He knows the income tax that those people pay is a very high rate, as it should be. He’s talking about putting in place a tax on the increase in value of their assets, so-called unrealized capital gains. I don’t know of any country in the world that does that. Do you?

Young: If I can talk about this in a way, if those unrealized…

Romney: Are there any countries in the world that tax unreal capital gains?

Young: Senator, if those unrealized gains are good enough to take to a bank to get hundreds of millions of dollars in loans, they should be taxed like income.

Senator Romney: I’m sorry. I asked a different question, and I get to ask the questions that I want and I hope to get a response from you. I don’t believe there’s any country in the world that taxes assets or unrealized capital gains. I believe France tried it for a while and found it was a disaster and gave it up. But the President’s proposing doing it and telling the American people they’re only paying 8%. They’re not paying 8% on their income. That’s disingenuous. And by the way, I think it’s the stupidest idea I’ve ever heard—would devastate our economy. I’m not worried about how much money the billionaires are going to be paying in taxes. That’s not my concern. It’s the idea that we’d be transferring everything from the public markets into private assets that couldn’t be valued easily. Look, I would describe as well the other proposals made sounding as if they have a chance of passing. They don’t. We need to work as a committee and as a Congress to stop acting for the cameras and start working for the American people to finally deal with the massive deficits and debt that we have. And that’s not happening. That’s why Senator Manchin and I have proposed a bipartisan, bicameral commission to finally tackle this before it becomes such a crisis it can’t be resolved without calamity. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.