Ranking Member Neal Opening Statement at Hearing on President Trump’s 2018 Budget with Treasury Secretary Mnuchin
(Remarks as prepared)
Thank you, Chairman Brady. Secretary Mnuchin, it’s a pleasure to see you again and thank you for joining us today.
A budget is a reflection of one’s values – and President Trump’s budget is no exception. The President’s budget cuts program after program that middle class families rely on every day. You name it – Community Development Block Grants and Stafford Loans for college students – all drastically cut or zeroed out.
The budget also breaks the President’s repeated promises not to cut Social Security and Medicare, cutting Social Security benefits by up to $64 billion.
The budget also cuts Medicaid by more than $600 billion – on top of more than $800 billion in cuts in the House Republican health bill – and it also will restrict health coverage for children under the CHIP program significantly.
For Democrats, our values reflect a strong commitment to the middle class. For every issue we consider here in Congress, the first question we ask ourselves is will this change help working families. And if the answer is no, we won’t support it.
Let’s face it, for many American families, it isn’t easy to make ends meet. You work hard every day – sometimes in multiple jobs – but it’s still tough to earn enough money to get food on the table and a roof over your head.
It’s a struggle even for young Americans. The front page of the Boston Globe this week included a story about how the loss of blue-collar jobs is forcing young men to fall down the income ladder.
This is in part why working families sent a strong signal to Congress last November. Many Americans were convinced that President Trump understood the importance of the middle class and that he would be a different kind of Republican, who would finally work to give them the edge, give them more opportunity.
Unfortunately, this budget lets those very same people down in dramatic fashion.
We were elected to Congress to help America’s working families – and that’s why our priority must always be the middle class. So what are some Democratic priorities?
A key priority is to provide affordable, quality health care for all Americans through programs like Medicare, Medicaid and CHIP. More and more, middle class families rely on Medicaid for long term care – it pays for more than 60% of all nursing home residents nationwide.
And as baby boomers age into Medicare, it would be irresponsible to cut funds to this critical program. The reason your mom and dad aren’t living in your attic is because of Medicare and Medicaid.
And 95% of American children have insurance coverage thanks to Medicaid and CHIP. It provides health coverage for working families struggling to make ends meet.
Our tax code is broken and in desperate need of repair, which is why we must pursue reform. However, we must reject ideology and move forward in a bipartisan manner to create a tax code that is fair for middle-class Americans.
Middle class families are frustrated by stagnant wages, a tax code that favors those at the top, and an uncertain financial future. Any tax reform plan must be about moving the dial to help middle-class families prosper.
Another Democratic priority is ensuring that working families are financially secure in retirement. We’re experiencing a retirement savings crisis in this country.
According to Boston College’s National Retirement Risk Index, about half of today’s households are at risk of not being able to maintain their pre-retirement lifestyles once they stop working. Far too many Americans aren’t saving enough for retirement.
Democrats support initiatives to help Americans save – like the auto IRA and making the Saver’s Credit refundable. I’m also a big supporter of the tax incentives for retirement savings.
We should also be expanding Social Security benefits as proposed by my colleague John Larson. This would allow Social Security to continue to be the foundation of middle-class economic security for the 171 million workers who contribute with every paycheck, knowing that Social Security will be there for them when they retire, if they become too sick to work, and to protect their families in the event of their death.
Let me close by saying that Democrats focus is on middle class first. This is true on every issue that comes before us – from health care to taxes to retirement.