Cole Remarks at Rules Committee Hearing on H.R. 4820, The Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act

Nov 1, 2023

Thank you for the opportunity to testify on the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies bill for Fiscal Year 2024.

I would also like to thank Chairwoman Granger, Ranking Member DeLauro, and my partner on this bill, Ranking Member Mike Quigley.

This bill 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.

To really compare this bill to last year, we need to be honest about what was in the Fiscal Year 2023 bill.

First, I would point out that last year, Democrats labeled an extra $3.6 billion as emergency spending.

We do not repeat that this year.

Second, the THUD bill uses receipts from HUD-backed mortgages and refinancing to offset spending.

In Fiscal Year 2023, this provided $10 billion to offset spending. For Fiscal Year 2024, that receipt number is down over 70%. Now we can see why – few people want to refinance at an 8 percent interest rate.

So the real level of spending in the THUD bill was $101 billion in 2023, compared to $93 billion in the bill before us today. This is a decrease of $8 billion, bringing the total slightly below 2022 levels.

Every year across government we face unavoidable cost increases in some programs. I believe we need to be responsible when addressing these costs. This bill does just that, by cutting excess, removing duplication, and even trimming some of the programs that are popular on both sides of the aisle.

But we also made sure to prioritize the core missions of DOT and HUD.

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

I am proud that we provide resources for the Federal Aviation Administration to hire 1,800 new air traffic 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 our 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 national security programs.

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.

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

The bill supports self-sufficiency programs so that families can move up and out of rental assistance. Our housing assistance programs should be a hand-up, not 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 FY23 enacted level of $3.3 billion for this program.

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

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

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

This bill includes provisions that will scale back the Biden Administration’s regulatory overreach.

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 Public Housing Authorities, who should be focused on providing safe and sanitary conditions in the housing units that they manage.

The bill also bars DOT from imposing new carbon emission reduction targets for highway projects. This would be particularly burdensome for small and rural communities.

The bill prohibits funds for drones subsidized by the Chinese government. This will safeguard our national security and create a fair playing field for American manufacturers.

These are just a few of the policy provisions in the bill that will scale back the Biden Administration’s overreach. I am pleased that we have received several amendments that will do even more to keep a check on the excesses of this Administration.

I want to thank Members of the House for their input to this bill. We received about 9,000 requests and were able to accommodate, in full or in part, over two-thirds of them, including community project funding for transportation infrastructure and brick-and-mortar community development projects.

I am pleased that we are back at work, moving appropriations bills through the House Floor under our new Speaker. It is critical that we fulfill our constitutional duty, pass the remaining appropriations bills, and get to work negotiating with the Senate.

A continuing resolution will serve no one well. This bill is an ideal example of why we must avoid putting the government on auto-pilot.

Under a CR,

  1. our air traffic control system would suffer delays because of staffing shortages;
  2. housing assistance would be revoked from vulnerable Americans;
  3. and spending that is no longer needed from fiscal year 2023 would be carried forward another year.

We must avoid that outcome.

Thank you, and I look forward to any questions you may have.