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Kline Statement: Hearing on "Policies and Priorities of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services"
As prepared for delivery.

Good morning and welcome Madam Secretary. I believe this is your first appearance before the committee, and we certainly appreciate the opportunity to meet with you today. I realize your time is valuable and we only have a small window to discuss a wide range of topics. I will keep my opening remarks brief to help ensure all members have ample opportunity to discuss with you the department’s policies and priorities.

By any definition, the Department of Health and Human Services is a massive federal agency. It employs nearly 76,000 workers and maintains an annual operating budget in excess of $800 billion, the largest of any agency in the federal government. 

While a great deal of the department’s resources are directed to Medicare and Medicaid, more than $100 billion in taxpayer money is spent on various social service programs. Many of these programs fall within the jurisdiction of this committee, such as welfare, the Community Services Block Grant, and provisions of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act.

No doubt these programs are well intended. They reflect our nation’s ongoing commitment to serving those in need. In recent years, however, the federal budget has been placed on an unsustainable path taxpayers can no longer afford. This growth has forced us to take a hard look at every facet of the federal government as we consider how to rein in spending. 

I realize the administration has offered some modest proposals for scaling back the costs of your department. However, these proposals fail to rise to the challenges we face. If we adopt the president’s plan, the Congressional Budget Office reports the federal government will spend $46.2 trillion, impose $1.5 trillion in new taxes, and add roughly $9 trillion to the national debt over the next decade. This is unacceptable.

In health care, the news is just as disappointing. It has been a little more than a year since the president signed his health care bill into law, yet already the price tag for the new law has increased by more than 50 percent. A plan that supporters promised would reduce costs will instead charge taxpayers more than $2.6 trillion when fully implemented and add more than $700 billion to the deficit.

Our national conversation has become so consumed by “trillions” and “billions” that it’s almost impossible to comprehend the magnitude of the crisis we face. These reckless policies affect not only the nation’s bottom line, they undermine confidence in our economy and harm job-creators’ ability to expand businesses or hire new workers.

The current fiscal crisis demands we examine every program to ensure every taxpayer dollar is spent efficiently and effectively. Every federal agency must be part of that effort. If we fail to promote responsible reforms and make tough choices, our nation will no longer be able to provide assistance to those who need it most. Those who argue for a timid response threaten the very safety net many Americans rely upon.

We know many of the decisions we must make will be unpopular. Writing about the spending cuts in the final appropriations bill, the president’s communications director noted, “Many will be painful, and are to programs that we support, but the fiscal situation is such that we have to act.” I couldn’t agree more. 

The nation faces a historic moment: We can continue the status quo of more spending, more taxes, and more debt that will ultimately lead to our nation’s decline, or we can make the tough yet necessary choices to preserve the promise of our country and the prosperity of our children. That is the course a majority of this House has supported, and one that I believe an overwhelming majority of the American people expect us to take.


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