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

Jul 12, 2023

The Subcommittee will come to order.

I want to welcome everyone to the Subcommittee Markup of the Fiscal Year 2024 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill. 

I am pleased to be joined by Ranking Member DeLauro, Ranking Member Quigley, and the Members of the Subcommittee.

I believe the bill before the subcommittee 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 grants 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.

My good friend Ranking Member Quigley understands that we face a major challenge with reduced housing receipts and rental inflation costs.

We had to provide about $13 billion to do three things in the housing title – just to maintain a basic level of support for our most vulnerable citizens:

  • Cover $7 billion reduction of housing receipts from HUD-backed mortgages from FY23 to FY24, due to rising interest rates and a cooling housing market.
  • Restore $3.6 billion in rental assistance funding that was declared an emergency in the FY23 bill.
  • Provide $2 billion to fund year-over-year housing inflation costs, meeting statutory fair market rent calculations.

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.

My friend Congressman Rutherford has said many times that housing is crime fighting. I agree.

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.

You can see by the stack of paper in front of you that we have a good share of community projects in this bill.

I have spoken with many Members about their specific projects, and I am thrilled that we are able to deliver on many of your priorities.

I also respect that Members know their Districts. Over the past months, we have evaluated projects based on criteria set up at the beginning of the process, along with statutory eligibility.

Not every project made the cut, but I assure you, I looked very closely at Member requests, as did Ranking Member Quigley. I am proud of the result before you today.

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.

We have a few policy items in this bill 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 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.

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 subcommittee for their participation in the process this far.

I have learned from each of you through our hearing process, and all the ideas you have brought to me – either through your formal requests or through casual conversations. This bill is better because of your participation.

And I would like to make a final word about why it is important that we do our job as appropriators. This bill is a great example of why we need to avoid a continuing resolution.

Under a CR, our air traffic control system would suffer delays because of staffing shortages; housing assistance would be revoked from vulnerable Americans; and last year’s priorities would be locked in.

Finally, I would ask that Members reserve any amendments until Full Committee.

I look forward to working with all of you as the bill moves forward, and I ask for your support for this legislation.

Now, I would like to recognize the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee, Mr. Quigley, for his opening remarks.