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Public Statements

Providing for Consideration of H.R. 5850, Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2011

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. ARCURI. I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Madam Speaker, it is clear that this point of order has nothing to do with unfunded mandates. Technically, this point of order is about whether or not to consider this rule and, ultimately, the underlying bill. In reality, it is about preventing the bill from moving forward without any opportunity for debate and without any opportunity for an up-or-down vote on the legislation, itself. It is about slamming the door on the legislative process.

I think that is wrong, and I hope my colleagues will vote ``yes'' so that we can consider this important legislation on its merits and not stop it on a procedural motion. Let's stop wasting time on parliamentary roadblocks and get to the debate on this legislation, itself. It is a very important piece of legislation that has critical funding pieces in there for transportation and for housing. Those who oppose the bill can vote against it on final passage, but we must consider this rule, and we must pass the bill today.

I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. ARCURI. Madam Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Madam Speaker, House Resolution 1569 provides a structured rule for consideration of H.R. 5850, the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and Related Agencies Appropriation Act of 2011. The rule provides 1 hour of general debate equally divided and controlled by the chair and ranking minority member of the Committee on Appropriations. The rule waives all points of order against consideration of the bill except those arising under clause 9 or 10 of rule XXI. The rule waives all points of order against provisions in the bill for failure to comply with clause 2 of rule XXI. The rule makes in order the amendments printed in part A of the report of the Committee on Rules accompanying this resolution, not to exceed four amendments printed in part B of the report of the Committee on Rules if offered by Representative Flake of Arizona or his designee.

All points of order against the amendments except for clause 9 and 10 of rule XXI are waived. The rule provides that for those amendments reported from the Committee of the Whole, the question of their adoption shall be put to the House en gros and without division of the question.

The rule provides one motion to recommit with or without instructions.

The rule provides that after disposition of amendments, the chair and ranking minority member of the Committee on Appropriations each may offer one pro forma amendment to the bill for purpose of debate, which shall be controlled by the proponent. The Chair may entertain a motion that the committee rise only if offered by the chair of the Committee on Appropriations or his designee. Finally, the rule provides the Chair may not entertain a motion to strike out the enacting words of the bill.

Madam Speaker, I rise as a member of the Rules Committee and also as a member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in strong support of H.R. 5850, the fiscal year 2011 Transportation-HUD Appropriations Act, because housing and transportation are two areas that must be priorities, especially in tough economic times such as we are in, because we get the double return on our investment. As we have seen with the recovery bill, investment in infrastructure not only generates economic recovery by putting people back to work, but those construction jobs strengthen our transportation system and improve our housing stock. They make our roads safer, our bridges safer for our families and our friends and our constituents to travel on.

The Transportation-HUD appropriations bill continues this investment and our commitment to using all the tools available to continue the economic recovery that has taken hold. It is also important to note that the legislation continues these important programs, but in a fiscally responsible way. Overall, the bill spends $500 million less than was appropriated during the current fiscal year. The amount provided overall is $1.3 billion below the President's request.

I commend the committee for its work in crafting a bill that spends less overall and still manages to increase the funds available for key programs that are at the heart of our Nation's economic recovery. The committee has done so by scaling back spending on other programs, which is never popular or easy, but is the right thing to do.

Included in H.R. 5850 is $45.2 billion to improve and repair our Nation's aging highway infrastructure. The bill includes more than $11.3 billion for the Federal Transit Administration, which will support bus and rail projects, and an estimated 20,000 additional jobs for transit workers nationwide. This not only provides more transportation options to Americans during tough economic times, it also decreases traffic congestion, reduces our dependence on foreign oil and greenhouse gas emissions, and makes our roads safer for commuters.

This bill adds another $1.4 billion to continue developing and building a national system of high speed rail. High speed rail moves more people at a lower cost, at a faster speed, and with less impact on our environment than road transportation. We have developed the most advanced highway and aviation systems in the world over the last 60 years, but in comparison to the rail systems in other nations such as Germany, France, and even China, we have clearly fallen behind. This bill continues our commitment to correcting that situation and developing a robust national intercity rail network.

Related to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, H.R. 5850 makes critical investments to help communities continue to address the fallout from the housing and foreclosure crisis that we see nationwide. The bill provides communities with the tools they need to build, purchase, or rent affordable housing. It provides rental assistance to low-income families, homeless veterans, and other at-risk groups, and supplies funding for repairs and renovation of affordable housing across America.

The bill provides $4 billion for the Community Development Block Grant program, which sends funding directly to local governments for projects that address housing, social services, and other economic challenges in their communities.

Madam Speaker, this is just a sample of the important programs and initiatives that the Transportation-HUD Appropriations Act will fund in fiscal year 2011. I urge my colleagues to support the rule and the underlying bill.

I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. ARCURI. Madam Speaker, I would like to say thank you to the gentleman from Florida for his handling of this rule. It is always a pleasure to participate in a debate on a rule on the floor with you, Mr. Diaz-Balart.

Madam Speaker, we heard a lot today. And I think it was very interesting to listen to the debate go back and forth, and certainly from my colleagues on the other side of the aisle who talked a great deal about spending. Clearly, spending is one of the most important issues that we are dealing with here in Congress.

In particular, my friend and colleague from the Rules Committee, Ms. Foxx, talked about the fact that it is--I think she said--``the most important issue that faces Congress.'

I would say that it clearly is one of the most important issues that faces Congress, but when you talk to people, when you talk to Americans, they think that the most significant issue that we in Congress need to deal with is the economy--it is jobs; it is putting people back to work, and equally important, it is making sure that the people who do have jobs continue to have jobs.

I think this bill really is indicative of what the Democrats are trying to do. We recognize the fact that it is necessary to begin to make cuts. That is why this bill has cut $500 million from the amount that we spent last year. On the other hand, when you listen to economists, they are very clear in saying that we have to be careful in how quickly and how drastically we make cuts because we are starting to see the economy turn around. If we make draconian cuts and if we make cuts too quickly, it will stand to jeopardize the recovery that is beginning to take hold, that is beginning to take foot.

So I think this bill takes exactly the right approach in terms of beginning to cut but not doing it in such a drastic way that we will affect or detrimentally hurt the recovery that is beginning to take effect. The Transportation-HUD Appropriations Act funds some of the most important initiatives that pay for everything from roads, bridges, and railroads to housing for veterans and low-income families.

In my opening remarks, I discussed the critical investments that this bill makes in our transportation system. The bill also invests in housing programs for vulnerable populations, including retirees, people with disabilities, veterans, and even children.

The funding is even more essential during these very tough economic times. The bill includes funding to address the problem of homelessness among our veterans. All too often, men and women who sacrifice the most for our freedoms are hit the hardest in tough economic times. We owe our veterans the utmost respect and gratitude for their service, and we must honor the commitment made to them. They should not have to return home to be confronted by the possibility of poverty or homelessness.

To address this, H.R. 5850 includes funding for an additional 10,000 vouchers through the Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing Program, administrated by HUD, in conjunction with the Veterans Administration.

H.R. 5850 includes another $825 million to rehabilitate and to build new housing for low-income seniors. Currently, there are 10 eligible seniors on waiting lists for each unit of available housing. In America, it is unacceptable that our Greatest Generation is faced with this shortage. HUD's section 202 program is the largest housing program specifically dedicated to serving the elderly, with over 268,000 units for seniors.

Madam Speaker, housing and transportation are two areas that absolutely must be priorities and that are essential during a recovery. The funding that H.R. 5850 provides for these programs will ensure that our economy continues to rebound and that out-of-work Americans are able to find jobs and to afford housing.

Again, I want to stress that the committee has produced a bill that makes critical investments, which I have highlighted, and that it manages to do so while, at the same time, spending $500 million less overall on these agencies during the current fiscal year. During these tough economic times, American families have been forced to cut back and tighten their belts. We need to ensure that the Federal Government and agencies are following their example and doing so well. H.R. 5850 holds the Federal Government to that standard.

I urge my colleagues, Democratic and Republican, to support it. I urge my colleagues to vote ``yes'' on the previous question and on the rule.

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