Ranking Member DeLauro Statement at the Full Committee Markup of the 2024 Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Funding Bill

2023-07-18 10:52

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT-03), Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Committee, delivered the following remarks at the Appropriations Committee's markup of the fiscal year 2024 Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies bill:

– As Prepared For Delivery –

Thank you, Madam Chair, 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.

For business travel, commuting, leisure, and everything in between, life in America requires safe and efficient ways of connecting. Americans deserve the fastest, safest, and 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 keep people safe, not retreating from our transportation future.

Furthermore, the biggest issue touching every community is the lack of affordable housing. There is a shortage of 7.3 million affordable homes available nationwide. Ensuring affordable and adequate housing is available in the places Americans live and work – ensuring there are roofs over the heads of children and families – should not be controversial. Yet this bill fails to meet the housing needs of a growing and aging population.

The majority’s bill includes more of the same rescissions and budget gimmicks we have already seen. This includes pulling back over half a billion dollars for health hazard remediations in low-income housing, and weakening the enforcement of the Internal Revenue Service to benefit the wealthiest Americans. The $25 billion cut from the IRS’s Inflation Reduction Act funding would result in a $51 billion tax break according to the Congressional Budget Office – so while billionaires would not have to pay the taxes they owe, hardworking American families will have a harder time commuting and keeping a roof over their head.

The majority’s cut of $7.2 billion for the Department of Transportation 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.

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 every day 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 commerce.

This includes communities like Aberdeen, Maryland, and Roanoke and Lynchburg, Virginia, that have stops on the Northeast Corridor – and communities like Staunton and Clifton Forge, Virginia, and Connellsville, Greensburg, and LaTrobe, 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.

Amtrak estimates that approximately 20 million riders could be impacted. I do not believe my colleagues who represent these areas want fewer trains connecting their constituents to family, events, business meetings, and hard-earned vacations.

We have seen the tragic costs of inadequate rail infrastructure play out in real-time, yet this bill eliminates the Federal-state Partnership for Intercity Passenger Rail program and cuts the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvement program in half, kicking the can down the road on major safety improvements for passenger and freight rail.

Several 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 in transportation 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 looks to set investments in housing back as well. This bill fails to do enough to expand housing for seniors, veterans, people with disabilities, and working families, and it fails to improve the safety of those in low-income housing. Republican Senator Jacob Javits said this before the passage of the Fair Housing Act, quote,

“We now have before us … legislation to meet the present exigencies of the crisis of the cities – a crisis which, in my judgment, is equal to the crisis which we face in Vietnam. Much too little attention has been focused upon this particular measure dealing with discrimination in housing, and much too little attention given to its importance in the minds of those who feel that, for a century, they have been a depressed and discriminated-against element of the American community.” End quote.

What happened to yesteryear’s Republicans? The majority’s abandonment of seniors, veterans, people with disabilities, and families in need is as astonishing as it is dreadful.

Gutting the HOME program – the sole Federal program dedicated to affordable housing construction – by 67 percent will only further squeeze the housing supply. Failing to increase supply of affordable housing means we cannot even begin meaningfully to address the 580,000 people experiencing homelessness on any given day.

And the bill puts children and families at risk by rescinding $564 million for health hazard remediations in low-income housing, including lead-based paint hazards, jeopardizing the safety of our most vulnerable populations.

This recission would mean approximately 33,000 low-income families will not have their homes made lead safe, resulting in approximately 46,000 children continuing to be exposed to lead-based paint hazards – and an additional 49,000 low-income families living in pre-1978 housing with children under six will not have their homes assessed for lead-based paint hazards, resulting in 69,000 children continuing to reside in homes that may have lead-based paint hazards without their knowing it. To be absolutely clear, there is no safe amount of lead exposure. In children regularly exposed to lead-based hazards at home, 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.

Like every other bill we have marked up this Congress, this bill includes harmful and political riders. No honest lawmaker can look at the history of housing in this country and say there is no and has never been systemic racism. The U.S. government was an active participant in creating the racial segregation we still see today, and this bill cannot be talked about without acknowledging that history. Black-majority neighborhoods were bulldozed to create urban freeways. Racial covenants, red-lining, and restrictive zoning were not just tolerated – they were frequently requirements of federal programs. We must be honest with one another and with the American people about this country’s history of housing discrimination, and why we have a Fair Housing Act to begin with.

Veterans returning home from fighting America’s wars were facing racial discrimination when trying to find a home. It took the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – and President Lyndon B. Johnson’s urging – to push this body to finally 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 goes so far as to prohibit HUD from using funds to fulfill the requirements of the Fair Housing Act of 1968. By tying HUD’s hands, the majority is giving the green light to allow grantees to use taxpayer dollars to discriminate.

This bill would cripple our economy and eliminate thousands of jobs. It does nothing to address the historic lack of affordable housing, and makes our vulnerable populations less safe. I must underscore that this is no messaging bill. This is their so-called “Commitment with America” in action. I am taking Republicans at their word, as should all the American people – this is what they want to do. With unthinkable cuts, indefensible riders, and untenable rescissions, the majority continues to diminish the relevance of the Appropriations Committee, and so for these reasons, I must vote against this bill, and I urge my colleagues to do the same. Thank you, and I yield back.

118th Congress