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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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Ms. LEE of California. Mr. Chairman, first, let me thank our ranking member for yielding. But also, I want to thank yourself and our subcommittee chair and the entire staff for their tireless effort to bring this appropriations bill to the floor.

I also want to say to the ranking member, Mr. Olver, that I will miss your thoughtfulness. I will miss your real clarity of purpose on all of the issues. I will miss your attention to detail and the bipartisan spirit that you bring to this Appropriations Committee. I just have to say I wish you the best, as you close this chapter of your life and begin the next chapter, but I'm going to miss you deeply--as we've heard tonight and we will hear until you begin this next chapter. So thank you again so much for your service. And most importantly, I just want to thank you for your friendship.

Yes, as a member of the Appropriations Committee, I really understand the constraints which we have been working under, but I cannot support the inadequate sub-allocation in this bill.

Mr. Chairman, this bill does not meet the basic responsibilities that we have to the American people. It shortchanges key housing and transportation initiatives which would rebuild America and put construction workers back on the job. And in a time of great need, this bill does not include a single dollar for the TIGER grant program.

Like many communities across the Nation, including in my home district, especially in my city of Oakland, California, we continue to struggle with high unemployment and crumbling infrastructure. Smart investments in infrastructure, such as TIGER grants, create jobs and fix our infrastructure.

Tonight, Congresswoman Maxine Waters will offer an amendment to add $500 million in TIGER funding. I'm very proud to cosponsor this amendment. I appreciate Congresswoman Waters bringing this forward because this is a very important amendment for us to support. So I hope all Members will support that $500 million increase in TIGER funding.

In addition to shortchanging our transportation needs, this bill fails to invest in our Nation's critical affordable housing stock. I know the chairman and Mr. Olver remember in committee I tried to begin the debate on increasing the project-based section 8 voucher program because landlords and developers and tenants are going to be shortchanged if we don't fix this. Hopefully, that amount will be increased in the Senate.

Now, in the middle of a housing emergency, gutting support for affordable housing for our Nation's seniors, the disabled, families and children, that's just plain wrong. Republicans supported bailouts to Wall Street, but even the smallest programs to help families on Main Street like Choice Neighborhoods and Sustainable Communities, those initiatives are completely zeroed out.

This bill fails to fund the National Affordable Housing Trust Fund, which Senator Sanders and myself initiated when we both were on the Banking Committee many years ago.

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Ms. LEE of California. Thank you very much.

This bill, as I said a minute ago, this fails to fund the National Affordable Housing Trust Fund--very important initiative. Senator Sanders and myself, we initially put forth this idea when we were both on the Banking Committee. This was an excellent idea, it was an excellent bill, it was an excellent program which would build the desperately needed housing. It would create thousands of construction jobs, which would of course boost the entire economy.

This bill that we're debating tonight does not fund that, and that is really too bad. The American people need Congress to invest in our Nation's infrastructure. We cannot build a strong and prosperous Nation if our roads and bridges are crumbling beneath our feet. We cannot build a strong economy if we leave millions of Americans in poverty at the risk of homelessness and struggling to find a good-paying job.

So I urge Members to oppose this bill. But again, I want to thank the chairman and the ranking member for working on the subcommittee bill in the spirit of bipartisanship. But I think it just falls short for many of us to support.

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