Cole Remarks at FY24 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill Full Committee Markup

Jul 18, 2023

Thank you, Chairwoman Granger.

The bill before the Committee responsibly funds our most critical transportation and housing needs, which will have a positive impact in every Congressional district.

At the same time, the bill meets the challenge before us to reduce spending and get our debt under control.

The bill reduces spending 25% below Fiscal Year 2023 levels, with a CBO score of $65 billion. We achieve these savings through a rescission of IRS funds and by reducing billions in excessive spending.

We have cut or eliminated 19 grant programs at DOT and HUD, totaling over $8 billion in savings, compared to the enacted level.

The total program level in this bill is $90 billion. We have carefully allocated resources to the most critical missions at DOT and HUD.

We prioritize transportation safety – on our railways, roads and airways.

And we ensure a responsible safety net with housing support for our most vulnerable citizens – especially the elderly, the disabled, veterans, and the working poor.

I’ll take just a minute to highlight the investments in the bill before you today.

Transportation safety is our highest priority for DOT.

I am proud that we provide resources for the Federal Aviation Administration to right-size the air traffic controller workforce with funding to train 1,800 new controllers to backfill the retiring workforce and deploy air traffic controllers to understaffed facilities.

We also provide full funding for the most critical air traffic control modernization programs. We all feel the impact of a strained air traffic control system.

These investments will generate economic growth and ensure uninterrupted air service, which is critical for rural and remote communities.

This bill provides $60 billion for highways and bridges through the highway trust fund. These resources are directly allocated to your state departments of transportation – enabling state and local governments to collaborate on the highest priority road projects.

The bill prioritizes safety programs at DOT to ensure that our roads and railways are safe for freight haulers and the traveling public.

The bill supports DOT’s maritime mission with full funding for security programs – which are part of the defense function – along with support for academies that train the next generation of mariners.

The bill meets our fundamental responsibility to support our most vulnerable citizens who rely on housing assistance to live in dignity.

These housing programs are run at the local level, through public housing authorities, private landlords, and many faith-based organizations.

We also support self-sufficiency programs that are run at the local level, so that families can move up and out of rental assistance. Our housing assistance programs should be a hand-up, rather than a hand-out.

I’ve heard from Members on both sides of the aisle on the importance of Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), so we provide the FY 23 enacted level of $3.3 billion for this program, which supports programs like Meals-on-Wheels, Boys and Girls Clubs, and programs to combat homelessness.

I am also proud of the work we have done in this bill to meet our trust and treaty obligations to Native Americans. For years, HUD tribal housing programs languished, with buying power eroded by inflation.

At the same time, some of the housing on Tribal lands deteriorated to the point of being dangerous and uninhabitable. 

So I am proud that we have restored the Indian Housing Block Grant program to $1.1 billion, catching up to an inflation-adjusted 1998 level.

We also provide an additional $150 million for the Tribal Transportation Program. Combined with $835 million available through the highway trust fund and advanced appropriations in the recent infrastructure law, the bill provides a total of $985 million to make real progress improving the safety and reliability of roads and bridges on tribal lands.

The bill scales back the Biden Administration’s regulatory overreach, ensuring that the programs in this bill serve the taxpayer, rather than the bureaucracy.

For example, we prohibit funds to implement the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Rule at HUD. This does nothing to impair HUD’s enforcement of the Fair Housing Act, but cuts red tape for local Public Housing Authorities, who should be focused on providing safe and sanitary conditions in the housing units that they manage.

The bill prohibits agencies from buying drones subsidized by the Chinese government – a critically important issue as we work to safeguard our national security and create a fair playing field for American drone manufacturers.

And the bill prohibits DOT from imposing new carbon emission reduction targets for highway projects. This would be particularly burdensome on small and rural states.

I am proud of these and other policy provisions we have included in the bill.

I want to thank all the Members of the Committee for your contributions to this bill.

Where possible, we have accommodated your requests. I think this bill is a positive reflection of the thoughtful approach of our Committee membership.

Finally, I thank my good friend, Ranking Member Quigley, for your partnership and thoughtful engagement as we developed this bill.

Thank you, Chairwoman Granger, for your support and leadership. 

And thank you, Ranking Member DeLauro, for your leadership. It is good to be with you again on the dais – which seems natural after our eight years together on the Labor-HHS bill.

We may have some disagreements across the aisle at this point in the process. But I know we will continue to work together to meet our charge to responsibility fund a government that is responsive and accountable to the American people. 

I urge adoption of this legislation, and I yield back.