Diaz-Balart Remarks at FY23 Transportation and Housing and Urban Development Full Committee Markup
Thank you, Chair DeLauro, so much for presenting the THUD bill to our committee today. I also want to thank Ranking Member Granger for her leadership and her stewardship. Thank you, Vice-Chair Quigley, for standing in today and doing such a good job for our good friend, Chairman Price. And obviously, all of our hearts go out to Chairman Price as he mourns the loss of his wife Lisa. David and Lisa were true partners, and one can just imagine the tremendous loss he is feeling.
David Price and I have been working on this bill together for nearly eight years. Not only has he been an honorable partner, but he has also been and has become a good friend in this effort through these years. I will miss David, and I know that all of us will miss him on this committee, and this institution will miss David Price. Evidence of his life of service can be found in this bill, and frankly, his smart policy approach will live on in this bill for years to come. Obviously, David’s impact extends way beyond the THUD bill. We all thank him for his life of service, and I look forward to working with him in the weeks and months ahead to finalize the THUD bill. There are some really good parts, and good things in this bill, and of course, there are also some issues with it.
The chairman considered thousands of Member requests, and I appreciate that he accommodated many of them. I especially thank Chairman Price for a new manufactured housing initiative that will revitalize communities across our nation, something he spent a lot of time and a lot of effort thinking and working on. Chairman Price listened to stakeholders and developed this innovative program with his characteristic deep understanding of policy and of the country.
I thank the chairman for including $300 million for port infrastructure grants. Obviously, this is something that is important not only for coastal states like Florida but for the entire freight network across the country. Chairman Price and this subcommittee have always made safety a priority for DOT programs, and this bill continues in that tradition.
The bill modernizes air traffic control systems to ensure our airways are the safest in the world, and it makes key investments also in road and rail safety. We also share a priority of supporting American innovation – from automated vehicles to unmanned aircraft to commercial space. The bill makes key investments in each one of those areas. For HUD, over $3 billion above last year is provided just to maintain HUD’s current rental assistance programs.
I continue to believe it is our responsibility to renew housing assistance, especially for the elderly, the disabled, and our veterans. I share the chairman’s priority for homeless assistance grants. I have seen positive results from this program, by the way, specifically in South Florida, where we have made great strides to reduce homelessness, especially among our heroes, among veterans.
While I agree with many of the investments and the decisions in the bill, we all know that these bills were written, frankly, under an unrealistic top-line number, decided strictly on a partisan basis by the Majority. Let me be clear, despite some of the really great things in this bill – I cannot support this bill at its current spending level. The bill as written is just spending too much– with an overall increase of 12% increase above last year, and a 17% increase for HUD. This enabled, for example, a $1.1 billion increase for the housing choice voucher program in this bill. Now, let me tell you what the problem is with that. This expansion of rental assistance will multiply over future years and end up costing the taxpayer tens of billions in future years. In essence, is almost as if it were mandatory spending.
Inflation is at a 40-year high, and families in this country are struggling and hurting. Contrary to talking points often used by the Majority, we cannot address inflation by spending more, which just actually makes the problem worse. Every year, this committee shows that we can get our work done once a bipartisan topline agreement is in place. This year, I am confident, will be no different. Once we get that agreement, I am eager to work with Chairman Price so that this bill can again be a capstone to his, frankly, impressive career.
Lastly, I’m not going to mention all the names, but I am going to thank the hard-working staff, as Mr. Quigley just mentioned and the chairwoman just mentioned, on both sides of the aisle. Doug Disrud never lets me forget anything. The guy is always on top of every single issue. Alyssa Erdel, who by the way is amazing and keeps us on focus, keeps us on task. From my personal staff, Chris Sweet, who has become an expert on planes trains and everything having to do with infrastructure. And to Christina Monroe and your entire team, thank you for the amazing job that you do for being accessible and open.
I look forward to this markup, Thank you, Madam Chair. I yield back.