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Public Statements

Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. LATHAM. Mr. Chairman, I commend the gentlewoman from Tennessee for her persistence and for all of her

work as far as trying to get a handle on the spending.

I would just like to make a couple of points.

She mentioned that we're $2 billion below the President's request. We're actually almost $4 billion below last year's spending in this bill. We have the largest decrease, percentage-wise, of any of the appropriation bills. We have worked very hard to craft a bill that actually enacted those types of spending cuts but also funded the high-priority items that are in this bill. It's with reluctance I oppose her amendment.

I will just say that we're within the 302(b) allocations that were in the Ryan budget. That was really the debate then as to what funding levels to be at.

There are some very important infrastructure issues that would be harmed by this when we look at the highway trust fund funding that would be cut. Of course, that would also include transit programs, veterans homeless vouchers. We have done everything we could to try to have a balanced bill that actually created priorities after having many hearings and working through this bill on a line-by-line basis. I'm not sure that an across-the-board cut that cuts everything arbitrarily is the way to go.

Certainly, we're all very concerned about the budget, but with reluctance, I oppose this amendment.

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Mr. LATHAM. I would like to join with the gentleman here in support of this amendment. I would like to make a couple of points.

If you represent a rural district, this is an enormous issue. Oftentimes, on average, jobs will pay less in urban areas to begin with. On average, a lot of these folks have to drive long distances to work. We've got people in my district today that drive 50 and 60 miles one way to their job every day, and this would be an enormous hardship on these folks.

I would also add that the Secretary of Transportation and the administration, 2 years ago when we were trying to get a highway bill done, the administration took this off the table. They said, We're not going to do this. And so I don't see why the Secretary would need to do research or any kind of means of implementation if, in fact, they so strongly oppose this type of taxation.

So for several different reasons, I commend this gentleman on this amendment and rise in its support.

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Mr. LATHAM. I thank the gentleman very much. I just want to talk about the subject that the gentleman from Massachusetts brought up.

The Secretary of Transportation came before the subcommittee. We were talking about the difficulty we were having as far as trying to write an appropriation bill with no new authorization. The Secretary on several different occasions said he would not entertain and they would strongly oppose both an increase in the gas tax and vehicle miles driven, and I'm sure that the gentleman from Massachusetts remembers that testimony very clearly.

I would just suggest that maybe someone should talk to the administration about finding sources for funding because the Secretary has taken every possibility off of the table to fund a new highway bill. And now we're apparently looking at a reauthorization that's finding other unique ways of funding rather than user fees or gas tax or miles driven or registration fees, whatever, they have taken off the table. So I would suggest the gentleman from Massachusetts would maybe visit with Mr. LaHood at the Transportation Department.

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Mr. LATHAM. You will remember also, during the hearings with the Secretary, I asked that very question of the Secretary. You're taking gas tax, vehicle miles traveled off the table, let's find a way to do this.

He said: Well, we need to sit down at the table and discuss this.

I said: Mr. Secretary, you're at a table. I'll be glad to come around and sit with you, and we'll discuss it. You come up with some ideas. And he came up with zero ideas, if you'll remember that.

Mr. OLVER. Reclaiming my time, at my age, I can't remember what happened several days ago, and that is quite some time ago. But, you know, it will slowly come back. Eventually, it slowly comes back.

I yield back the balance of my time.

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Mr. LATHAM. I thank the distinguished gentleman, the Chairman, for the time, and let me just rise in strong support of this amendment.

This, I think, is one of the most outrageous, offensive taxes that I've ever heard of. The idea of taxing U.S. travelers from any point in the United States just because they're traveling to a destination in Europe is simply outrageous. It's going to be devastating to U.S. carriers, and it's something that we have got to put a stop to.

Like the gentleman talked about the international community's strong opposition, I think on a bipartisan basis everyone is opposed to this. It is, again, a far overreach. It is something that is unnecessary. It is simply wrong.

I really appreciate the gentleman's work on this to have this amendment brought forward as at least a first step in stopping this very, very, I think, egregious new tax.

With that, I yield back the balance of my time.

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Mr. LATHAM. I thank the gentleman for yielding.

Obviously, we all want pipeline safety. That is the number one issue, but what you're talking about here is truly beyond the pale as far as any kind of common sense. We've got to find a balance, like you've talked about. The overreach that we're seeing in so many areas of the Federal Government causes things like this that are just simply nonsensical.

I appreciate the gentleman for bringing the issue forward and would want to work with him in the future to find a resolution to your concerns.

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Mr. LATHAM. I rise in support of this amendment.

I appreciate very much the gentleman from Florida bringing this issue to the attention of the House and, again, very strongly support his proposal to do away with this wasteful spending.

I yield back the balance of my time.

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Mr. LATHAM. I rise in strong support of this amendment.

Let me just say that this has been a subject of great discussion with the ranking member and me over time. I hope the people of the House understand and the American people understand what an outright waste of money these projects have oftentimes become.

Everybody here is talking about our needing more money for infrastructure, transportation; let's get the trust fund built up; we're trying to find new ways of funding. I hope everyone understands that, 2 years ago, before we got control of this committee, they took $150 million out of the highway trust fund to pay for sustainability projects and grants.

That's rather interesting.

When it's an unauthorized program, no one even has a definition of what a ``sustainable community'' is. There is no definition of where this money could go. This is $150 million, and people talk about all their projects at home--of their highways in disrepair, of the bridges falling down--and we're spending $150 million out of that trust fund for things that aren't even defined and that are not authorized.

Mr. Chairman, it is outrageous.

I just spoke with the Secretary of HUD a few weeks ago on this issue because I have zeroed it out in this bill. There is no money for sustainable communities, whatever that is. Do you know the example the Secretary gave me of a good project? It would be to take millions of dollars from the Federal Government and give it to the area in North Dakota where they're having the expansion of the oil boom.

The State of North Dakota has billions of dollars in surplus. It has more money than it knows what to do with. Yet the Secretary says we should take sustainable community dollars from the Federal Government, of which we're borrowing 40 cents on the dollar from China, and give it to North Dakota to find out where it should put up its buildings in the oil boom area. I'm sorry, but I think they can afford to do that themselves.

So I would very strongly support the gentleman's amendment. Again, this is money that is coming out of the trust fund. Everybody here talks about roads in disrepair, bridges falling down, all that we need to do in the way of help for infrastructure, for jobs--and we're giving it to places like North Dakota. I'm sorry, but this is a waste of money, ill-defined, unauthorized. I very strongly support the gentleman's amendment.

I yield back the balance of my time.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. LATHAM. I rise in strong support of this amendment.

Let me just say that this has been a subject of great discussion with the ranking member and me over time. I hope the people of the House understand and the American people understand what an outright waste of money these projects have oftentimes become.

Everybody here is talking about our needing more money for infrastructure, transportation; let's get the trust fund built up; we're trying to find new ways of funding. I hope everyone understands that, 2 years ago, before we got control of this committee, they took $150 million out of the highway trust fund to pay for sustainability projects and grants.

That's rather interesting.

When it's an unauthorized program, no one even has a definition of what a ``sustainable community'' is. There is no definition of where this money could go. This is $150 million, and people talk about all their projects at home--of their highways in disrepair, of the bridges falling down--and we're spending $150 million out of that trust fund for things that aren't even defined and that are not authorized.

Mr. Chairman, it is outrageous.

I just spoke with the Secretary of HUD a few weeks ago on this issue because I have zeroed it out in this bill. There is no money for sustainable communities, whatever that is. Do you know the example the Secretary gave me of a good project? It would be to take millions of dollars from the Federal Government and give it to the area in North Dakota where they're having the expansion of the oil boom.

The State of North Dakota has billions of dollars in surplus. It has more money than it knows what to do with. Yet the Secretary says we should take sustainable community dollars from the Federal Government, of which we're borrowing 40 cents on the dollar from China, and give it to North Dakota to find out where it should put up its buildings in the oil boom area. I'm sorry, but I think they can afford to do that themselves.

So I would very strongly support the gentleman's amendment. Again, this is money that is coming out of the trust fund. Everybody here talks about roads in disrepair, bridges falling down, all that we need to do in the way of help for infrastructure, for jobs--and we're giving it to places like North Dakota. I'm sorry, but this is a waste of money, ill-defined, unauthorized. I very strongly support the gentleman's amendment.

I yield back the balance of my time.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. LATHAM. Reclaiming my time, let me just say, in the authorization of the FAA, their specific role was air traffic concerns that they may have safety concerns, collisions with other aircraft. I agree with the gentleman, it should probably be a Homeland Security issue. I also serve on the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Appropriations. It has not been brought up in that.

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Mr. LATHAM. Mr. Chairman, I make a point of order against the amendment because it proposes to change existing law and constitutes legislation in an appropriation bill and, therefore, violates clause 2 of rule XXI.

The rule states in pertinent part: ``An amendment to a general appropriation bill shall not be in order if changing existing law.'' The amendment imposes additional duties and requires a new determination.

I ask for a ruling of the Chair.

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Mr. LATHAM. I would just like to lend my support for this amendment. It's something where clarification needs to be done, and the rules need to work for veterans for these processes. This has been one of the hang-ups for veterans being able to get into assisted living or houses. And any backlog that there has been has been basically a bureaucratic backlog, rather than a funding issue in the past. So it's a good amendment, and I would urge its passage.

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Mr. LATHAM. Is it your impression that what the gentleman is saying is that they can't take highway trust fund money and put it into high-speed rail and that they can't take transit dollars and put it into high-speed rail?

It would be my understanding, since there is no money in the bill for high-speed rail, that he is talking about other pots of money that would go to California and about just trying to wall that off from being used. That's my understanding. Maybe the gentleman has a different interpretation.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. LATHAM. I appreciate very much the gentleman's concern on this amendment. I think his timing is, maybe, unfortunate. This is a major issue in the reauthorization bill that, hopefully, is going to be filed tonight. This issue will be dealt with. It truly is an authorizing issue that should not be on this bill.

So, while I may share some concerns with the gentleman, I certainly don't think it's appropriate on this bill, especially at this moment when the highway bill is being filed and when, hopefully, this issue will be resolved in that bill.

With that and with some reservation, I urge a ``no'' vote on this amendment, unfortunately.

I yield back the balance of my time.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. LATHAM. Madam Chairman, I believe we are coming to the end here, and I just want to make a couple of comments.

As far as the gentleman from Massachusetts, once again, this will be his last appropriation bill on the floor as the ranking member and a former chairman of this subcommittee. Mr. Olver has done an outstanding job over the years. We don't always agree on everything. Do we, John? But we work very, very well together. And I just want to wish you and your wife the best.

You are a great partner and someone who I admire very, very much--your intelligence, your ability to look in detail at programs. And we kid each other--or I kid Mr. Olver a lot about maybe having debates inside his mind sometimes in committee. But he's always extraordinarily thoughtful and someone, again, that I admire very, very much.

Madam Chairman, we've been through a 2-day process here. We have gone through a lot of amendments. I believe that we are to the point where we can bring this effort to a conclusion.

And I would, again, thank Mr. Olver, thank the staff, the professional staff on both sides, on the majority and on the minority side, for doing such an outstanding job. Working together is very difficult sometimes on these bills. Also, in my office, Doug Bobbitt does such a fabulous job working on this bill for me. But I just want to say thank you to everyone.

Madam Chairwoman, I move that the Committee do now rise.

The motion was agreed to.

Accordingly, the Committee rose; and the Speaker pro tempore (Mr. Denham) having assumed the chair, Ms. Foxx, Acting Chair of the Committee of the Whole House on the state of the Union, reported that that Committee, having had under consideration the bill (H.R. 5972) making appropriations for the Departments of Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development, and related agencies for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2013, and for other purposes, had come to no resolution thereon.

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