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Transportation, Housing And Urban Development, And Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2008

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Location: Washington, DC

TRANSPORTATION, HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT, AND RELATED AGENCIES APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2008 -- (House of Representatives - July 24, 2007)

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Mr. SCHIFF. Mr. Chairman, I rise to claim the time in opposition to the amendment.

The Acting CHAIRMAN. Does the gentleman oppose the amendment?

Mr. SCHIFF. Yes, I do.

The Acting CHAIRMAN. The gentleman from California is recognized for 20 minutes.

Mr. SCHIFF. I thank the chairman of the committee for his superb work on the bill and the chairman of the full committee, as well as the subcommittee.

I'm going to reserve the balance of my time, but I do want to acknowledge what the gentlelady has said before reserving the balance of our time, and that is, there is a deep philosophical difference between the Members of the minority party who are here today and those of us speaking in opposition to the amendment. And of course there's a philosophical difference between the Members that are here on the floor today and their fellow Republicans in committee who unanimously supported this bill, those Republicans on the committee and in the House as a whole who have made every effort to work with Democrats and find common ground in dealing with the fiscal challenges that we face, but also recognizing the need to invest in America as our parents' generation did and as their parents did.

Yes, there's a philosophical difference. We're facing a constrained fiscal environment. We've got to get our budget in balance. Some here on the floor tonight we'll hear say, well, we can afford to balance that budget by taking it out of funds for the elderly or taking it out of funds for the homeless, taking it out of funds that help serve Native Americans, taking it out of funds that would make our aircraft more safe.

That's a philosophical difference, I think, with a bipartisan majority of this House that thinks that those aren't the right places to find savings, that we ought to look elsewhere. We ought to look, for example, at the generous corporate welfare payments that we make at a time when the oil industry, for example, has not only had record profits of the year or record profits of the decade, but record profits in the entire history of the oil industry. And not just the history of the oil industry, but record profits of any corporation at any time in the history of the world.

Now, that corporate welfare, my friends on the philosophical other side of this issue don't want to touch. That's sacrosanct. They won't cut those historic profits by 6 percent, or by 1 percent or even by a half of one percent because that's contrary to the philosophy. But they're more than willing to cut those who are desperately in need. And that's where we do have the divide. It's what I will be addressing when I conclude the remarks on our side of the aisle.

But at this point, I will reserve the balance of our time.

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Mr. SCHIFF. Again, I thank the gentlewoman for offering the amendment to this bill, as she did to one of the prior bills, because it really does highlight the philosophical difference between the bipartisan majority of the House and the self-described ``fringe'' represented by the views we've heard tonight.

What is that philosophical division between the bipartisan majority and the Members that we have heard from this evening? Well, the bipartisan majority of this House believes that if we're going to ensure a stronger America, then we have to make an investment in that America. But we have to make the same kind of investment that our parents made and their parents so that we can enjoy the prosperity that we enjoy now; that we can't simply say, well, we're going to let our children and our grandchildren fend for themselves.

The bipartisan majority believes that that requires a responsible investment in our roads and our highways; a responsible investment in our aviation system; a responsible investment in our aviation security; a responsible investment in housing for the elderly, for the disabled, for those who are in need. That is a priority of the bipartisan majority. This is our philosophy.

Now, my friends expressing the minority view say, well, let's look at what the American family would do when the American family is facing budgetary pressures. So let's look at what the American family would do. My friends expressing the minority opinion tonight say they would set their priorities. Well, that's absolutely right, they would set their priorities, which means they wouldn't cut everything identically in their lives, which is just what the gentlewoman's amendment would do. It would cut everything across the board.

The American family, when they're facing a fiscal constraint, doesn't say, we're going to cut our medicine equally, we're going to cut our food equally, we're going to cut our essentials equally with how we cut cable TV, was one illustration given by my friends in the minority. No. They don't say we're going to cut the necessities the same amount we're going to cut the luxuries. They prioritize.

But my friends in the minority, with their across-the-board cuts, don't prioritize. And so they do make cuts, real cuts, not like my friend from Arizona claimed, which is, unfortunately, not correct. My friend from Arizona just claimed that nothing is really cut in the across-the-board amendment. But the reality is there are a great many things that are cut, real cuts, that don't have an increase in the bill sufficient to offset what the gentlewoman's amendment would cut.

So what are some of the real cuts the gentlewoman is proposing tonight? She is proposing real cuts to the number of critical safety staff in aviation, safety staff that deals with the Office of Flight Standard and Aircraft Certification. They would be real cuts. Not cuts in growth, but real cuts, fewer people doing the safety inspections for our aircraft. Is that what the American family would choose to do when they're faced with a fiscal constraint? Would they choose to cut things that have the effect of making their families less safe? I don't think that's where they would look for the cuts.

What other real cuts has the gentlewoman been advocating? She's advocating real cuts in emergency response training for hazardous material transportation. That's a real cut the gentlewoman is advocating.

She is also advocating cuts in Native American housing grants. Is the gentlewoman prepared to tell the Native Americans back in her State that she favors real cuts to their housing assistance? I will be willing to yield on that question if the gentlewoman is ready to say, not hide behind an across-the-board amendment, but is ready to say to the Native Americans in her State, I support real cuts to your housing.

I will yield if the gentlewoman would like to respond to that question. Is the gentlewoman prepared to say, yes, I'm advocating tonight real cuts to the American housing in my State?

I yield to the gentlewoman from Colorado.

Mrs. MUSGRAVE. What I would like to say to the citizens in the Fourth District in Colorado is that I'm very willing to take the increase from a 6.7 to a 6.2 percent increase.

Mr. SCHIFF. Well, I yielded the time to the gentlewoman, but she did not answer the question. Evidently she wasn't willing to tell the Native American population in her home State she is proposing an amendment to cut their housing tonight. She is willing to hide behind an across-the-board amendment, but is not willing to tell them directly what the effect of that amendment is.

The gentlelady's amendment would also cut, in very real terms, homeless assistance grants.

Now, let's get back to that philosophical difference between the bipartisan majority and the minority here tonight. One of my colleagues, my colleague from New Jersey, said, well, the American family has to make tough choices. And maybe they need to make the choice that not all of their kids can go to college. Well, that's the philosophical view of the minority opinion we hear tonight. Maybe the American family needs to make the choice that not all of their kids can go to college.

Well, the philosophical view of the bipartisan majority is that every child in America that wants to go to college should have the ability to go to college, notwithstanding whether they are rich or poor. That's our philosophy. And that's why we increased support in the Labor-HHS bill which, again, the gentlewoman wanted to cut, to help more kids go to college. That's our philosophy, that if we're going to look after the future of this country, we're going to have to invest in the future. That means investing in our kids. And that means not putting American parents in a position where they have to say this child goes to college, this child does not. That is not our philosophy. It may be the philosophy of the gentleman from New Jersey; it may be the philosophy of the minority on the floor here tonight. It is not the philosophy of the bipartisan majority of this House, nor the American people.

Now, some of my friends in the minority here tonight say, okay, 6 years of GOP rule; we ran the country into the ground financially, we admit it. But we weren't responsible, we few here on the floor tonight, because we were standing up at the time. Well, I have to say that when we could have used your voices, we didn't hear them. When we could have used your voices, for example, earlier this year to try to achieve savings in the expenditures on oil and gas, when people go to the pump and they're paying record amounts, when we wanted to try to take that and invest it in the country's future instead of investing it in oil company profits, the friends in the minority here tonight had nothing to say. None of them were on their feet saying, yes, this is the time where we must cut corporate welfare because we can't afford it. Let's cut it 1 percent across the board.

When our seniors are trying to buy medicine and can't afford it and we take action here to bring down the cost of that medicine and save the government money because we're living in a finite world, did our friends stand up and say, yes, we have to be fiscally responsible? We have to try to help those families who are working, both heads of household, and can't afford medicine, or those seniors who can't afford medicine, so we're going to stand up for them; we're going to cut those corporate subsidies and corporate welfare? No. They were silent. It's only when it comes to cutting homeless assistance, cutting assistance for the elderly, and even cutting support for additional safety inspections for aircraft that our friends in the minority here tonight are willing to stand up.

So, yes, there is great philosophical difference here tonight between the bipartisan majority that believes we have to invest in the future of this country, between the bipartisan majority that doesn't think a parent should have to decide which child can go to college and which child can't, not based on the merit of that child, not based on the academic ability of that child or the gifts of those children, but because they can't afford to send both children to college.

There is a philosophical difference between the bipartisan majority that says that is unacceptable in America, that is not the America we want to see in our future, and the philosophical views of the minority here tonight that say that's fine with us. We won't look elsewhere. We are willing to balance the budget on the backs of our kids and their kids, the homeless, the elderly and the others. Just stay away from corporate welfare because that is untouchable.

That is not the philosophy of the majority of this House. It will not carry the day when this amendment comes to a vote.

I urge my colleagues to join with the bipartisan majority and defeat these cuts to these vital services, and also to step up to the plate when we have the opportunities to reduce corporate welfare so that we can finance these essential services to let their voices be heard.

Mr. Chairman, I yield back the balance of my time.

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