Congressman David Price House Floor Remarks on FY18 THUD Appropriations Bill

September 8, 2017

Remarks for Congressman David Price (NC-04)
Consideration of FY2018 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill
September 6th, 2017

As delivered on the House floor.

Mr. Chairman, I thank our ranking member for yielding, and I thank her and our chairman for their good work. I must still rise, however, in opposition to the fiscal 2018 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies bill, and the Republican Omnibus bill.

I want to stress, Mr. Chairman, that I am heartened, as I imagine every Member of this body is heartened, by the bipartisan cooperation we have been able to muster to reach out to our neighbors in Texas and Louisiana who have been so devastated.

It is the same kind of solidarity and cooperation that I know we will muster, whatever the need is after Irma reaches our shores. We anticipate that storm with a great deal of concern and apprehension. We have a history in this body of pulling together when it matters for our neighbors whenever disasters strike.

That kind of cooperation is absolutely essential to who we are as a country and who we are as an institution. Mr. Chair, I want to urge that we bring that same spirit of cooperation, that same understanding of the historic cooperation that has characterized appropriations, to our larger appropriations challenge.

After all, this is the power of the purse. This is our main constitutional power, and history shows it works best when it is exercised cooperatively, no matter who the President is or what the party division is.

We need to work in a cooperative fashion to make sure that this power is just as effectively and responsibly exercised as possible.

This eight-bill exercise in which we are engaged today is a deeply flawed process. We need to overcome this, and I believe eventually we will, with a bipartisan budget agreement such as we have had each of the last 4 years.

This will let us cooperatively write appropriations bills that address our country’s needs. But that is not where we are today, Mr. Chairman.

I do want to give the chairman of our subcommittee, Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart, of Florida, credit for an open and collaborative process, but he and the subcommittee have been dealt an inadequate hand. We simply can’t do what needs to be done with this allocation.

In the case of the T-HUD bill, we have only appropriated $56.5 billion for vital transportation, housing and community development programs, and that is $1.1 billion less than the enacted level.

We have got to do better than this. We have got to do right by our country’s infrastructure needs. One of the most egregious omissions in this bill is funding for the TIGER program.

This is a program that has addressed infrastructure needs across our country. Estimates are that we are addressing only 5 percent of the meritorious projects put forward under TIGER.

I can tell you about one project we are funding. I visited it last week: Union Station in Raleigh, North Carolina, a beautiful multimodal facility that is going to facilitate passenger rail, transit, buses, intermodal transportation, and it is going to revitalize a landmark downtown district.

That is an ideal use of TIGER funds. Communities all over this country need that sort of investment, yet this bill zeros that program out completely. It also cuts New Starts for transit— Capital Investment Grants—by $659 million.

Now, I give the chairman credit for including bill language to ensure that the FTA continues to rate and review projects in the New Starts pipeline, but at this funding level, only a few of those projects can actually be funded.

Our cities across this country are eager to institute transit programs. They have gone through all the steps to do this responsibly. We need to keep faith with those communities by improving on this aspect of our bill.

Over at HUD, the Choice Neighborhoods program—formerly called HOPE VI—that has transformed dozens of public housing developments into thriving, mixed-income communities, receives only $20 million in this bill compared to $137 million in the fiscal ’17 bill.

Now, I recognize this is a placeholder amount, and I look forward to working to improve this number moving forward.

Additionally, the Community Development Block Grant and HOME programs are each cut by $100 million in this bill despite bipartisan calls from local elected officials across the country to preserve those funding streams.

We are in the midst of a housing crisis nationally. Only one in four people eligible for Federal rental assistance can receive it. We have a huge public housing capital backlog, and our infrastructure continues to crumble, resulting in decaying highways and bridges and congested roads. We should be increasing our commitment to meet these housing and transportation needs, not shortchanging them.

We have done this for far too long already. We have returned again and again to appropriations, especially domestic appropriations, to bear the whole brunt of deficit reduction.

The results are a disaster for our economy and for the work of our appropriations committees. It is truly the worst of both worlds. We are not really addressing the main drivers of the deficit, yet we are doing untold damage to critical national investments.

I strongly object also to several policy riders in this bill. They unnecessarily attack high-speed rail, they roll back transportation safety, and they harm labor rights.

No number of amendments offered today can fix this bill. I remain hopeful that ultimately we can get a serious budget agreement.

In the meantime, I urge my colleagues to reject this omnibus bill.