April 24, 2013

Manchin Applauds Senate Confirmation of Sylvia Mathews Burwell As OMB Director

Native West Virginian’s bipartisan background a promising sign for a grand bargain

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) issued the following statement on the Senate’s confirmation of Hinton native, Sylvia Burwell, to be Director of the Office of Management and Budget by a vote of 96-0:

“Sylvia’s impressive record has proven that she will be an excellent Director of the Office of Management and Budget. The fact that Sylvia worked so closely with Erskine Bowles – one of the architects of the best template to get our finances in order – and helped produce the last balanced budget and budget surplus our country enjoyed over a decade ago, proves that she can help us get our long-term fiscal house in order.

“Her budgetary experience in both the public and private sector at the Clinton Administration, the Gates Foundation and the Walmart Foundation, matched with the bipartisan relationships she has built over the years, shows that she is a public servant ready to take on this country’s financial challenges.

“I look forward to working alongside a fellow West Virginian as we work on commonsense solutions to control our spending and once again become a fiscally responsible nation. The West Virginia values Sylvia embraced while growing up in Hinton will help set our nation’s priorities as we solve these tough problems.”

Prior to the Senate vote earlier today, Senator Manchin delivered remarks urging his colleagues to confirm Mr. Burwell as Director of the OMB without delay.

Below are Senator Manchin’s Senate floor remarks as prepared for delivery:

Mr. President, I rise today to urge the Senate to confirm the nomination of Sylvia Mathews Burwell to be Director of the Office of Management and Budget. I do so with great pride because Sylvia Burwell is from my home state of West Virginia, and I have been dear friends with her family for a long, long time.

Her parents have been community leaders in Hinton, West Virginia, for over a half century. Her father, Dr. William Mathews, is a longtime optometrist, and her mother, the Honorable Cleo Mathews, previously served as the Mayor of Hinton as well as in a number of other public service positions, including eight years on the State Board of Education, two of them as its president.

Mr. President, if you want to know Sylvia, you should look at her small hometown of Hinton and the surrounding Summers County, because that is her grounding. It is pure Americana – a onetime railroad boom town woven into the mountains of Appalachia

The downtown Historic District – that makes up 200 buildings, including churches, store fronts and private residences – is an architectural gem of American Gothic, Classical, Victorian and Greek Revival.  I’ll tell you, Mr. President, it’s a movie set just waiting to happen.

Hinton, population 2,676, is the ideal example of small town West Virginia. It is nestled in a lush green valley, on the banks of the New River, surrounded by the towering majestic mountains and forests of Summers County, one of the most beautiful counties in West Virginia.

New River is one of the oldest rivers in the world – it flows South to North, which may be due to the fact that it was formed long before the Appalachian Mountains.

This is the special place Sylvia Mathews Burwell calls home – a showcase for the best of West Virginia – the beauty, the outdoors, and the people, warm and welcoming.

Sylvia is humble, hard-working and has spent most of her life helping hard working families everywhere achieve the American dream her Greek immigrant grandparents found in this country.

She went off to Harvard, was a Rhodes Scholar and has traveled the world over.  But she has never lost touch with her West Virginia roots and the ties that bind us together.  No matter where she is, one day each week, like clockwork, she is on the phone with the two best friends she made in the first grade in Hinton. 

That is the heart and soul of West Virginia – friends and family.

But make no mistake, Mr. President, I am supporting Sylvia’s nomination not simply because she is from West Virginia, but because she embodies the best of our state and our country.

In West Virginia, we judge people by their deeds as much as their words – and Sylvia has already accomplished so much in her life, in public service and philanthropy.

Sylvia Mathews Burwell is an exceptional choice to lead the Office of Management and Budget, especially in the aftermath of sequestration, as so many of our colleagues detailed on the Senate floor this week.

I say that because Sylvia served as Deputy Director of the OMB from 1998 to 2001 – which was our last era of fiscal responsibility when balanced deficit reduction gave us balanced federal budgets. The fiscal plan she and Erskine Bowles put together, had we followed it, would have erased our national debt by now.

Sylvia was a key part of the Clinton White House team that reached across the aisle and negotiated those balanced budgets with the Republican Congress.  And if you look closely at the numbers, you can see just what an accomplishment it to fix our finances in the 1990s.

Prior to 1993, when Sylvia joined the Clinton Administration, the United States had failed to balance its budget for 23 years. By 1992, spending had risen to historic highs and revenues had reached near historic lows, compared to the size of the economy. In 1992, the federal budget deficit topped out at $290.3 billion.

In 1998, the year Sylvia moved from the White House to OMB, the federal budget had a $69.3 billion surplus the first surplus in a generation.

By that time, the wheels were in motion for sustainable balanced budgets for years to come. Spending had shrunk drastically and revenues were soaring to historic highs, thanks to a thriving U.S. economy and reasonable tax policies that ensured both corporations and wealthy individuals paid their fair share. 

Sylvia has been out of government now for the last 12 years, but I’m confident she will bring a fresh perspective to the fiscal debates we’ll be having over the next few years.

After serving in high-profile leadership positions at the Walmart Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and MetLife, she has seen first-hand the important role that both the government and the private sector play in the lives of the American people.

She served as Chief Operating Officer and Executive Director at the Gates Foundation from its inception in 2001 until 2006, at which point it was firmly established as a global philanthropic leader.

Sylvia then transitioned to the Gates Foundation Global Development Program, where she served as President until 2012 and led the foundation’s $725 million annual effort to improve the lives of more than 200 million people worldwide.

Under her leadership, the foundation broke new ground in pursuing sustainable investments in agricultural development; low-income financial services; water and sanitation; global literacy; emergency relief; and poverty alleviation.

Finally, as President of the Walmart Foundation throughout 2012, she led the company’s charitable giving efforts and the Global Women’s Economic Empowerment Initiative.

Mr. President, throughout her confirmation hearings, Sylvia promised that as OMB Director, her primary focus would be achieving balanced deficit reduction, increasing government efficiency and effectiveness, and thoughtfully targeting investments to grow the economy and create jobs.

That is exactly what we need in an OMB Director today. Now, more than ever, it is important that we continue to have strong leadership at the Office of Management and Budget.

Sylvia Mathews Burwell believes in the greatness of this country.  She has helped make it great.  She will help make it even greater in the years ahead.  And for that reason – and not just because she is from West Virginia – I urge the Senate to confirm her as Director of the OMB without delay.