Ranking Member DeLauro Floor Remarks in Opposition to the 2024 Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Funding Bill

2023-11-06 18:20
Statement

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT-03), Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Committee, delivered the following remarks on the House Floor in opposition to H.R. 4820, the 2024 Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies bill:

Thank you, Chairman Cole and Ranking Member Quigley, for your work on this bill. I would also like to thank the majority and minority staff, particularly Christina Monroe, Nora Faye, and Jackie Kilroy for all your hard work.

Americans deserve the safest, most advanced systems in the world, across all forms of transportation. Yet we have seen our transportation systems fail to meet the needs of the American people. Between air traffic control interruptions, catastrophic train derailments, highways collapsing and record pedestrian fatalities, we should be increasing investments to strengthen our transportation systems, keep people safe, and not be retreating from our transportation future.

Furthermore, every community is affected by the lack of affordable housing. There is a shortage of 7.3 million affordable homes nationwide. Yet this bill fails to meet the housing needs of a growing and of an aging population.

This bill will make everything from commuting to shipping goods slower, more difficult, and more expensive for Americans. This bill guts rail investments – including a 64 percent reduction for Amtrak – resulting in service eliminations, delays to station improvements, and furloughs to its workforce, which will impact 20 million riders.

The brunt of this cut is borne by the Northeast Corridor – from $1.3 billion to $99 million, or a 92 percent cut. Northeast Corridor rail service is the lifeblood of the $5.8 trillion economic region that spans 12 states from Virginia to Maine. Business travelers and commuters – myself included – rely on this service to make our economy grow, and thousands across the region are employed, directly and indirectly, by rail service and the commerce it drives.

We are not just talking about how people get to and from New York City, or how we get to Washington, D.C. There are seven million jobs within a five-mile radius of a Northeast Corridor station. Communities of every size line the route, from rural towns to suburbs to urban destinations, and those communities rely heavily on rail travel for connectivity and for commerce.

This includes communities like Aberdeen, Maryland, and Roanoke and Lynchburg, Virginia, that have stops on the Northeast Regional service – and communities like Connellsville and Greensburg, Pennsylvania, which are connected to the Northeast Corridor by intercity routes that would also see drastic cuts.

And even beyond the Northeast, at these proposed levels, Amtrak anticipates nearly all long-distance and state-supported service would be impacted on National Network routes. Services would be at risk across the country, on the Heartland Flyer in Oklahoma, the Silver Service to South Florida, the Texas Eagle from Chicago to Arkansas and Texas, and the Empire Builder from Chicago to Montana to the Pacific Northwest.

Thirteen of our colleagues in the majority supported the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, and even if they did not, they have not missed the ribbon cuttings. Yet that law was never intended to replace annual appropriations. We cannot make that law’s historic investments while gutting the annual appropriations that close the funding gap on complex and costly projects.

In parallel with setting our transportation infrastructure back decades, the majority sets investments in housing back as well. This bill fails to protect housing for seniors, veterans, people with disabilities, and working families, and it fails to improve the safety of those in low-income housing.

Gutting the HOME program – the sole Federal program dedicated to affordable housing construction – by 67 percent will further squeeze the housing supply. This would result in nearly 17,000 fewer affordable homes built or rehabilitated this year, and rental assistance for 5,000 fewer people.

And the bill puts children and families at risk by cutting $564 million for health hazard remediations in low-income housing, including lead-based paint hazards, jeopardizing the safety of our most vulnerable populations. In Flint, Michigan, thousands of children were exposed to lead-poisoned water for more than a year – as a direct result of chronic underfunding of the EPA and overreliance on state management of federal environmental law. We cannot repeat these costly mistakes.

To be clear, there is no safe amount of lead exposure. In children exposed to lead, you can expect to see delayed or stunted growth, learning difficulties, behavioral problems, and hearing and speech deficiencies. Failing to adequately address this issue will have dire long-term effects on our children’s health and our nation’s future. Our children deserve better.

We must be honest about why we have a Fair Housing Act to begin with. The U.S. government was an active participant in creating the racial segregation we still see today. Black-majority neighborhoods were bulldozed to create urban freeways. Racial covenants, red-lining, and restrictive zoning were not just the norm – they were frequently required by federal housing programs. It took the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. – and President Lyndon B. Johnson’s urging – to push this body to pass the Civil Rights Act, of which the Fair Housing Act was included as Title VIII. 161 Republicans and 166 Democrats voted for this landmark legislation, because members of both parties understood the deep-rooted problems in this country, and they decided to meet the challenge. I worry we no longer have two parties willing to meet today’s challenges.

This bill would cripple our economy and eliminate thousands of jobs. I must underscore that this is no messaging bill. I am taking Republicans at their word, as should all the American people – this is where they plan to take the country.

I must address the unforgivable manner in which community project funds were handled in the markup of this bill. Out of thousands of projects that adhered to the published criteria, the majority cut funding for three – solely because of their association with LGBTQ+ causes. This is truly despicable, and it sends the message that some of the American people are not worthy of humanity and dignity because of who they love.

With unthinkable cuts to transportation and housing and indefensible riders, I must vote against this bill, and I urge my colleagues to do the same. It will take bipartisan, bicameral support to get the 2024 Transportation-Housing bill signed into law. I implore my colleagues on the other side of the aisle to end this partisan charade and join Democrats at the negotiating table. Thank you, and I yield back.

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118th Congress