WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), as Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee, delivered opening remarks at the hearing on two Office of Management and Budget (OMB) nominations, Shalanda Young to be Deputy Director and Jason S. Miller to be Deputy Director for Management. As a former OMB Director under President George W. Bush, Senator Portman understands the importance of senior OMB officials working productively not just within the administration and across federal agencies, but also with members of Congress on a bipartisan basis. He called on the two nominees to commit to working with Congress in a bipartisan manner to address the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, growing cybersecurity threats like the SolarWinds attack, and combating fraud in federal relief programs, such as the unemployment insurance system.
A transcript of his opening remarks can be found below and a video can be found here.
“Thank you, Chairman Peters. I’m glad to join you at the hearing today and welcome to the witnesses. I’m looking forward to hearing from you. I’ve enjoyed our conversations we’ve had by telephone, and it’s good to have you here in person, and look forward to having you introduce your family members who are with you.
“As you all know, I think this agency is absolutely critical to our government and probably the least known but one of the most important agencies of government. It’s the Office of Management and Budget so the purview is almost boundless. Management of every agency, every department, every program. Not direct management but the oversight of it. And that responsibility would fall on you, as the two deputies, should you be confirmed. And then of course the budget side, incredibly important. But OMB also looks at every regulation. OMB also looks at every policy. It looks at every statement that comes out of the White House and has to approve it, so it’s a huge responsibility, and I’m glad that you’re willing to step up and take it on.
“As Deputy Director of the office and then as the Deputy for Management, respectively, it is important that you both have a background in your respective roles. Budgeting, management but also an understanding of all those policy issues, regulations, and actions that OMB reviews and coordinates across the agencies. Even more important to me is the ability to work with folks within the administration, the agencies, and with Congress. And Chairman Peters just talked about the COVID-19 package. I hope we don’t see a repeat of that because that’s not working with Congress. It’s working with one side of Congress. And both of you have backgrounds where you have worked on a bipartisan basis. Ms. Young, in particular on the Appropriations Committee that’s how you operate. And I’ve spoken to some of the cardinals, you know, who were previously in charge who are Republicans who worked with you, and some who, as Ranking Members, worked with you. And they said you did work with them and that’s very important.
“On COVID, you know, five times, five times we’ve done that in the last year and unfortunately, this latest time the administration chose to go a different route. I think it’s a mistake for the country, I certainly think it’s a mistake for trying to build some bipartisanship going forward on other issues that OMB will be very involved with, like infrastructure. So I hope you are going to be a voice within the administration to say that you are willing and able to work with both sides and find that middle ground and get things done.
“On the crises that we face, COVID-19 is at the top of the list but it has spawned other crises, including an epidemic crisis underneath the pandemic with regard to substance abuse and overdoses. We now believe we are in a year where we’re going to have the highest overdose death rate in the history of our country, which is such a heartbreaking reality because we were making good progress until the pandemic.
“We also know that our children’s education and development has been set back thanks to this coronavirus pandemic and that’s a long-term issue that we’ve got to address. I spoke to some folks this week, who tell me – you know they’re educators – that they believe the students that they’re in charge of teaching and developing have lost a year. That’s a big deal. And of course there are emotional scars that go along with that.
“There’s a mental health crisis in addition to the opioid and drug addiction crisis more generally so higher suicide rates along with the record number of overdose deaths, so there’s lots to do post-COVID-19. Just sort of knit this society back together.
“Finally, I will say I hope you will be willing to focus on fraud and these programs that we have set up. To me it is unbelievable that we are not doing more, particularly to address the fraud in the unemployment insurance system as we pump hundreds of billions of dollars of federal money and we find out that there are organized, international in some cases – you know foreign criminal organizations that are taking advantage of hard-earned taxpayer money to steal from our taxpayers and to fraudulently take federal funds. But it’s true with a lot of these programs, we’ve heard with regard to every one of these big programs that there is significant fraud. That will be something that we look forward to talking about today and getting you engaged with, should you be confirmed. I will say part of that is there are innocent Americans out there, including our constituents – Chairman Peters and myself – who are bearing the brunt of this fraud because people are stealing their identity and then getting checks illegally and then the government is coming back on the constituents, who knew nothing about it. And we’re hopeful that we can pass an amendment to the COVID bill to address that in the next 24 hours but it’s even worse than it might appear because of its impact on so many people.
“The cyberattacks we’ve seen recently, this massive SolarWinds attack, is unprecedented, we look forward to your comments on that. Cybersecurity is one of the five high-risk areas that has actually gotten worse since 2019 based on a hearing we had in this room two days ago. So, clearly we’re moving in the wrong direction in terms of securing our federal networks. I know Chairman Peters and I want to work closely with OMB in that regard because OMB has a huge role to play, particularly with regard to the agencies and making sure that they’re meeting the requirements.
“So, I am hopeful that we can work together to address these challenges, to rebuild the economy as we come out of COVID-19, which is likely to happen despite all the issues that I talked about. The economy is beginning to grow already. And I think that’s the good news and I think it will continue as the vaccines become more widely available in ways that a lot of people demand will help us move forward. If confirmed, the two of you will play an important part in all of these efforts. Ms. Young and Mr. Miller, I look forward to hearing your thoughts today on these important issues and other critical ones that would face OMB, should you be confirmed.”