Ryan Opening Statement: Markup of Default Prevention Legislation

WASHINGTON, DC — Today, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) delivered the following opening statement during a markup of H.R. 692, the Default Prevention Act, and H.R. 3442, the Debt Management and Fiscal Responsibility Act.

“Any talk about the national debt sounds complicated, but the point is pretty simple: We owe more than $18 trillion, and we don’t have a plan to pay for it. In fact, we keep adding to it every day. So when we talk about the dysfunction in Washington, let’s remember the single greatest dysfunction is this constant, reckless buildup of debt. That is the biggest threat to our credit rating because that is the biggest threat to our economy. It’s a ticking time bomb. We keep trying to put time on the clock instead of trying to defuse the bomb—and the world knows it.

“Let’s also remember why we have this debt. This year—like almost any other year—Washington is taking in more. It’s taking in hundreds of billions of dollars more. But families aren’t. Not parents. Not workers. Not students. They’re not getting much of a raise—if they’re getting one at all. And the politicians here in Washington say they’re mad—they’re outraged—that people are making less. But they’re all too happy to keep spending more. Look, the problem is not that Americans aren’t paying enough taxes. The problem is that Washington is spending too much money.

“So if you’re not serious about reining in spending, you’re not serious about paying down the debt. You can point fingers. You can condemn the process. But that’s like shaming the mailman for your credit-card bill. Enough with the blame game. We need a break with the past. Let’s take responsibility. Let’s take control of our future.

“The bills we’re considering today would do just that. They would eliminate the threat of default. And they would signal a greater seriousness about paying down the debt.

“First we have the Default Prevention Act. This bill would do one big thing: It would guarantee that the United States will never default on its debt.

“Right now, when we hit the debt limit, the Treasury can’t issue any new debt at all—even to make bond payments that come due. None of us wants to hit the limit. But if the United States missed a bond payment, it would shake the confidence of the world economy. All kinds of credit would dry up: loans for small businesses, mortgages for young families. We could even go into a recession.

“So this bill takes default off the table. It requires the Treasury to make good on all debt payments. It says, ‘In the unlikely event that we hit the limit, the Treasury can issue new debt only to pay the principal and interest on our current debt—and all obligations to the Social Security trust funds.’ We also tell the Treasury, ‘Report to Congress every week on the amount of principal and interest due. And tell Congress how much debt you’re issuing under this authority.’

“That would do a lot to reassure the world economy. That would give job creators the certainty they need. And that’s why anybody who says they’re concerned about the risk of default should vote for this bill.”