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Transportation, Housing And Urban Development, And Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2010--Resumed

Floor Speech

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Location: Washington, DC

TRANSPORTATION, HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT, AND RELATED AGENCIES APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2010--Resumed -- (Senate - September 17, 2009)

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AMENDMENT NO. 2359

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The pending business is amendment No. 2359, the Vitter amendment.

The Senator from Louisiana.

Mr. VITTER. Madam President, this amendment is very simple and straightforward. It simply says that no public housing assistance will be granted to anyone who is convicted of a crime involving drug trafficking, not simple possession but distribution, et cetera, or being a member of a violent gang. These are serious adult offenders. I don't believe we should use taxpayer funds with housing assistance, particularly in public housing projects, in that manner. It specifically focuses on New Orleans, LA, only New Orleans, where we are pouring massive amounts of Federal dollars to rebuild public housing projects in a fundamentally different, better way after Katrina, ridding those projects of the crime problem which had previously been embedded there. It is very important in terms of that recovery.

I reserve the remainder of my time.

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Mrs. MURRAY. Madam President, this amendment would deny housing assistance to any New Orleans household with a member of a criminal gang or someone convicted of certain drug offenses. Public housing authorities already have the ability to deny or terminate housing assistance to persons who have committed drug-related and violent crimes under current law. This amendment does far more than that. It extends to all forms of housing assistance. It is a permanent prohibition. If anyone in the family has committed these offenses ever, then that entire household would never be able to receive HUD assistance, including homeless assistance or even an FHA loan.

I am concerned that this amendment is targeted to one city, New Orleans. We should not be targeting one city or dictating housing policy city by city under this bill.

Importantly, the underlying bill provides funding to help our Nation's homeless veterans. Many of those veterans have struggled with substance abuse. If this amendment passes, those veterans will not be allowed to get assistance.

I ask my colleagues to vote against the amendment.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Louisiana.

Mr. VITTER. Madam President, we are not talking about drug possession, we are talking about trafficking. HUD and the housing authority have the ability to negotiate for other family members to stay in public housing and not be penalized.

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