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

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. McCLINTOCK. Madam Chair, this amendment finishes the good work begun by the gentleman from Utah on the previous amendment. It saves $3.4 billion by eliminating all funding for the Community Development Block Grant program.

This program was created in 1974 with the stated objective of eliminating blight and providing affordable housing, but in the nearly four decades since then, it has degenerated into a Federal slush fund for pet projects of local politicians and politically connected businesses. It is plagued by profligate waste and outright fraud.

This is an unauthorized expenditure. The legal authority for it expired back in 1994, 18 years ago, and Congress has not bothered to renew it ever since, but we keep shoveling money at it year after year. Madam Chair, $3.5 billion averages to almost $50 from the earnings of a family of four, and they have a right to know where their $50, taken from their family budgets, is going.

Senator Coburn gave some examples in his Back to Black report: Summit County, Ohio, spent $100,000 of CDBG funds to create a doggie daycare and kennel last year, and Nyack, New York, directed $10,000 of CDBG funds to Amazing Grace Circus in 2009 to put on ``A Day At the Circus.''

CDBG funds are being spent creating a ``hip'' atmosphere for employees of an L.A. architectural firm, providing decorative sidewalks in a wealthy Virginia community, and upgrading Victorian cottages in Alabama. Indeed, some communities use these funds to pay off Federal loans they've taken out on projects that are now defaulting because they've utterly failed to produce all of the benefits they've promised.

Even in the best of circumstances, these are all projects that exclusively benefit local communities or private interests and ought to be paid for exclusively by those local communities or private interests. They are of such questionable merit that no city council is willing to face its constituents and say, This is how we have spent your local taxes. But they are more than happy to spend somebody else's Federal taxes, so we end up robbing St. Petersburg to pay St. Paul for projects so dubious that the purported beneficiaries won't pay for them.

And that's all before we discuss the realm of fraud. This program is replete with individuals directing six-figure sums to their personal bank accounts or political activities. The Office of Management and Budget has repeatedly branded this program as ``ineffective.'' That's its official designation for government programs that cannot ascertain how their funds are spent. HUD's own inspector general found that, in a relatively short 2-year timespan, over 150 criminal indictments were issued for false claims, bribery, fraudulent contracts, theft, embezzlement, or corruption in connection with this program.

This a slush fund that cries for abolition, and it should be one of the first places that we look to bring spending under control and stop wasting our constituents' money. Once again, though, this unauthorized program is not targeted for elimination by the Appropriations Committee. It is not even targeted for a token reduction in spending. As we just discussed, the Appropriations Committee proposes spending $400 million more than we spent last year, indeed, $400 million more than even the President requested.

Now, let's be very clear on this. The House Appropriations Committee, with a Republican majority that has a clear mandate to stop wasting money, is about to appropriate $400 million more than requested by the most spendthrift administration in our Nation's history on a program with no Federal nexus, with a solid history of fraud, and that funds the most unworthy of local projects and special interest handouts.

The rules of the House were specifically written to prevent this type of unauthorized expenditure, and they provide for a point of order to be raised if it's included in an appropriations bill. That is exactly what we have here. But, alas, that rule is routinely waived when these measures are brought to the floor, making this amendment necessary.

Madam Chairwoman, this is another critical test of the Republican majority's intention to stand by the promises it made to the American people in the most dangerous fiscal crisis in our Nation's history. I pray that we rise to the occasion.

I yield back the balance of my time.

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Mr. McCLINTOCK. Mr. Chairman, this amendment eliminates funding for the Community Development loan guarantee program. Like the Community Development Block Grants that we just discussed, these loan guarantees support strictly local projects that have no Federal nexus.

Now, unlike the House Appropriations Committee, President Obama has requested no taxpayer subsidies for this program, and that's a pretty profound statement. Remember, this is the same President who had no problem placing billions of taxpayer dollars at risk for failed schemes like Solyndra, for which he was soundly and rightly criticized by many in this House.

But even the architect of the Solyndra fiasco is unwilling to risk taxpayer money on this loan guarantee program, so, enter the House Appropriations Committee that apparently has money to burn.

What are the recent projects funded by these loan guarantees? Well, $7 million went to the city of Hartford to buy a 393-room Hilton Hotel; $15 million went to build a movie studio in Norristown, Pennsylvania; a $10 million loan to Bass Pro Shops to redevelop the Memphis Pyramid.

Now, why would we put our taxpayers' money at risk for these ventures? Obviously, private investors were unwilling to risk their own money. Obviously, President Obama sees these loans as far riskier than anything that he's loaned in the Solyndra fiasco. But we're about to put our constituents' hard-earned money at risk to prop up these projects.

Now, when Bass Pro Shops takes $10 million to redevelop the Memphis Pyramid, will this mean more jobs in Memphis? Well, yes. And will it mean precisely that many fewer jobs in other regions as, once again, we take from one community to give to another? Unfortunately, the answer is yes to that question as well.

My amendment simply takes taxpayer exposure to these risky loans down to the level of fiscal restraint proposed by the least fiscally restrained President in the history of our Nation. I'd invite my Republican colleagues on the Appropriations Committee to follow.

I yield back the balance of my time.

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