House Appropriations Committee Approves T-HUD Spending Bill

The House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday, May 13 approved its FY 2016 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (T-HUD) spending bill by a party-line vote of 30-21.

Fifteen amendments were introduced and five were approved, though unfortunately none of the approved amendments pertained to housing or community development. An amendment that was offered by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) to remove language from the bill that would effectively eliminate the National Housing Trust Fund and fund HOME at the President’s request of $1.06 billion was rejected because the additional spending was not offset by other cuts. NAHRO supported the amendment.

Right now, it’s unclear when the bill will move to the floor; there is only one week left in the legislative schedule before Memorial Day recess and it appears that the Legislative Branch spending bill is next up for floor activity. Also, Congress will need to deal with the imminently expiring transportation reauthorization before departing for the Memorial Day holiday. With those priorities ahead of T-HUD, it’s unlikely the bill will be considered until June.

Meanwhile, it appears that the Senate is ready to begin work on appropriations. Rumors are circulating that the subcommittees have been informed of their allocations and it appears that the Senate’s T-HUD allocation may be lower than the House T-HUD allocation. It should be noted that this is only hearsay. Mark-ups of bills are expected to begin next week in the Senate and it’s possible that subcommittee allocations will be announced as early as next week.

The House Appropriations Committee has posted a recording of the four hour mark-up.

Approved amendments:
1. Manager’s amendment (we’re still hunting for the language of the amendment, but the provisions discussed didn’t relate to HCD programs)

2. Rep. John Culberson (R-Texas) – Allows Houston’s metro system to accept federal dollars with the approval of voters within the metro service area

3. Full Committee Ranking Member Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) – Increase Railroad Crossing set-aside within transit account

4. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) – Increase to Great Lakes funding

5. Rep. Scott Rigell (R-Va.) – Increase to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority by $25 million, offset with cuts to transportation admin expenses

Notable rejections:
1. THUD Subcommittee Ranking Member David Price (D-N.C.) – Amendment to increase funding to 12 programs in DOT and HUD, including the Public Housing Capital Fund, Choice Neighborhoods, HOME/Housing Trust Fund, 811/202, and lead abatement. Rejected because it had no offset.

2. Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-Penn.) – Amendment to increase Amtrak funding to match the Administration’s request. Amtrak and the crash last night in Philadelphia was a popular topic during the mark-up. The lack of information about the cause of the crash was a bit unfortunate; Republicans insisted more money wouldn’t necessarily have prevented the crash and chided Democrats for taking advantage of the tragedy, while Democrats insisted more money for safety and maintenance is needed, even if it wasn’t the cause of the crash. The amendment failed because it had no offset.

As the National Transportation Safety Board learns more about the cause of the crash, it is possible that the cut to Amtrak funding in the T-HUD bill could become a larger issue than it would have otherwise. Cuts to CDBG and Amtrak killed the T-HUD bill on the House floor in 2013, though it’s unlikely that even under these tragic circumstances, the cuts to Amtrak alone are enough to kill the bill again.

3. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.)- Amendment to strike the language in the bill eliminating the National Housing Trust Fund and fund HOME at the President’s requested $1.06 billion. The amendment failed because it had no offset.

4. Rep. Kaptur – Amendment to increase funding for incremental vouchers for vets, families, and victims of domestic violence by $235 million. Failed because it had no offset.

5. Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) – Amendment offered and withdrawn to eliminate the RAD cap.

6. Rep. Michael Honda (D-Calif.) – Didn’t offer an amendment, but stood to discuss the benefits of the Moving to Work program and hoped that the committee could work to “preserve” the program.

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