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Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2014

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. HOYER. Let me start with the fact that I choose to believe that Mr. Latham does not like this bill. Mr. Latham's not listening to me. Mr. Chairman, I wanted to say that I start my debate, that I choose to believe that you do not like this bill. I know you. I've worked with you over a long period of time.

This bill is insufficient to meet the obligations of this subcommittee. It is unworthy of the support of this House.

Mr. Chairman, there are many things wrong with the 2014 Transportation-Housing and Urban Development appropriation bill, but perhaps none more egregious than its severely painful cuts to the Community Development Block Grants.

Now, let me start with this observation. This is not about a poor people's program. It helps some poor people, but it helps communities--rich, moderate, and poor.

This is not about the 47 percent. This is about the 100 percent.

The Community Development Block Grant program was enacted on a bipartisan basis in 1974 and signed into law by the President, Gerald Ford, former minority leader of this House, President of the United States. From its beginning, it has served as a model of how bipartisan compromise in Congress can help tackle important challenges on the local level.

For nearly 40 years, these grants have been awarded on a formula basis to State and local governments for infrastructure development, the creation and maintenance of affordable housing units, anti-poverty initiatives.

It makes communities better. It empowers Members of Congress to be able to help their local communities who elect them. These grants save lives in our largest cities and in our smallest towns, in Alaska, in Hawaii, and in Maryland.

The cuts in this bill would reduce Community Development Block Grants by more than half. America is not bankrupt. America need not claim defeat and retreat. America has the resources, if it has the will, to grow our economies, to grow our communities, and to make them better.

We appropriated around $3.8 billion for these grants in fiscal year 2012, while this bill would cut that figure to just $1.6 billion. To put this into perspective, in 2001 we spent $4.7 billion under George Bush II on Community Development Block Grants.

After years of whittling away at those critical grants which empower our States, counties, and cities to help the most vulnerable have a chance at finding jobs and putting roofs over their heads, it would be devastating to communities whose budgets are already pushed to the limit and rely on these grants to serve all of their residents.

Our friends on the other side of the aisle talk a great deal about fiscal responsibility. But what about social responsibility?

Now I'm a strong proponent of fiscal responsibility.

But if fiscal responsibility is not coupled with social responsibility, it is not worthy of this House or this country.

Community Development Block Grants are an instrument of our common citizenship and, yes, our common humanity. In this case, however, they are a poignant example of the Republican strategy of disinvestment in America and abandonment of our communities and their people. Surely we're better than that, Mr. Chairman.

When we considered the Veterans Affairs, military construction, and Defense appropriations bills that included robust funding, we knew those funds had to come from somewhere. Here it comes.

Like our Republican friends, we believe we must invest in a strong, national defense, as Chairwoman Mikulski has been doing on the Senate Appropriations Committee. But we do not share the Republican majority's view that we ought to abandon our domestic priorities in the process. We're better than that.

None of us are surprised that their strategy to deal with the sequester is to ignore its consequences and impose cuts even deeper, even deeper, even deeper than the sequester calls for. In fact, I know of a number of our colleagues on the Republican side who see the folly in such strategy but cannot or will not speak up, for fear of the political consequences from the radical right. This bill is proof that such a strategy is underway.

It's not only an abdication of responsible leadership, it is a recipe for gridlock, as Democrats in the House and Senate could never agree to it. Reject this bill. We can and must do better.

I yield back the balance of my time.


Mr. HOYER. I thank the gentleman from Virginia for yielding.

He and I spent literally a decade working together, shoulder to shoulder, in a bipartisan way because this is America's subway. This is a subway that is used by almost all of the visitors who come to visit their capital. It is for that reason that the Federal Government has participated in building this extraordinary system.

The gentleman is correct. We have an agreement. There is a compact that has been signed by Republican Governors and Democratic Governors, by Republican Members of the House and Democratic Members of the House, by Republican members of the Senate and Democratic members of the Senate. I would hope that the House would reject this amendment.

I adopt the remarks of the gentlemen from Virginia. My colleagues Mr. Moran and Mr. Wolf, I think, speak for all of us, and, of course, Mr. Connolly has spoken very strongly for himself, but I would hope that the House would continue to keep the faith with the agreement that has been made for what is America's subway, used by all of our people when they come here to their Nation's Capital.

I want to thank the chairman, and I want to thank the ranking member for their efforts on behalf of the Metro as well as for keeping the faith of the agreement that we have reached. I thank the gentleman for his leadership and his remarks.


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