Amidst the political turmoil in the House last week, members of Congress voted on a number of spending amendments to the annual Transportation-HUD appropriations bill. This is not exactly the most exciting topic in light of the political gamesmanship involved in running for leadership posts, but it is quite revealing when attempting to ascertain the commitment of some members to reducing the size of government.
The bill, HR 4745, appropriates roughly $52 billion for FY 2015. Put simply, this bill encompasses more wasteful government that almost any other appropriations bill. It spends almost $8 billion more than last year’s draft bill from the House and it contains a number of programs that should not be administered at a federal level, such as subsidies for mass transit and rural air service. The bill also contains a number of programs that were instituted under the Obama stimulus bill in 2009.
Several members of the conference offered amendments to cut back wasteful spending, particularly among programs that subsidize housing, yet most of them were rebuffed by a coalition of Democrats and liberal Republicans. We’ve created a scorecard of 11 amendments detailing how each member of the GOP conference voted.
Please find the descriptions of these amendments from the Republican Study Committee pasted below:
1) Broun (R-GA) RC-273: Reduces Amtrak Operating Grants by $34 million (a ten percent reduction). The underlying bill provides Amtrak with $340 million for operating grants and $850 million for capital grants and debt service. Amtrak is supposed to be self-sufficient, but is projected to run an operating loss of $333 million in FY15, requiring another infusion of funds from the taxpayers. The rail service managed to lose $388 million on its food and beverage service from FY10-FY14.
The House Republican Budget recommended eliminating Amtrak operating subsidies. The RSC Budget proposed eliminating these subsidies for Amtrak, stating “Amtrak has no incentive to improve its performance if it knows that it will be able to count on the taxpayers for a bailout each year.”
Failed- 154 to 248
2) Chabot (R-OH) RC-274: Reduces Public Housing programs by a total of $2.9 billion. Of this, Tenant Based Rental Assistance (Section 8 Program) is reduced by about $1.936 billion and Project Based Rental Assistance is reduced by about $975 million.
In the underlying bill, Tenant-Based Rental Assistance, commonly known as the Section 8 Program, is appropriated $19.356 billion, a level that is $688 million below the President’s budget request, $179 million above the FY14 enacted level, and $746 million above the level proposed by the House Appropriations Committee for FY14. The Section 8 program has not been authorized since 1994. In the underlying bill, Project Based Rental Assistance is appropriated $9.746 billion, a level that is equal to the President’s budget request, $171 million below the FY14 enacted level, and $695 million above the level proposed by the House Appropriations Committee for FY14.
Failed- 127 to 279
3) Gohmert (R-TX) RC-276: Reduces Public Housing Capital Fund by $7.1 Million and reduces the Public Housing Operating Fund by $17.6 million, for a $24.7 million total spending cut. The underlying bill funds the Capital Fund at $1.775 billion and the Operating Fund at $4.4 billion. Both funds subsidize local public housing projects and have not been authorized since 2003. According to the amendment sponsor, 0.4 percent of public housing goes to illegal aliens, so he proposes to reduce these accounts by that same percentage.
Failed- 160 to 266
4) Broun (R-GA) RC-279: Reduces funding for Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) by $20 million. The underlying bill funds CDBG at $3.06 billion, a level that is 190 million above the President’s budget.CDBG has not been authorized since 1994. The RSC Budget recommended reducing funding for CDBG, explaining that it had funded wasteful projects such as “doggie daycare, a local circus, and decorative sidewalks in an affluent suburb.”
Failed- 134 to 288
5) Broun (R-GA) RC-280: Reduces Rental Housing Assistance by $7 million. This program is funded at $28 million in the underlying bill, a level that is $7 million above the current FY14 level.
Failed- 143 to 283
6) Broun (R-GA) RC-281: Reduces funding for the Amtrak inspector General by $1 million dollars.
Failed- 130 to 295
7) Hartzler (R-MO) RC 282: Prohibits funds for “highway beautification” under the Transportation Alternatives program (TA). Under this program, the federal government spends federal taxpayer dollars on landscaping. The RSC Budget proposed eliminating the TA program altogether, which also funds non-federal projects such as bike path, recreational trails, and scenic overlooks.
Failed- 188 to 237
8) Blackburn (R-TN) RC 289: This amendment cuts the funding amount for the entire bill by one percent. The bill provides a net total of $52.029 billion in discretionary budget authority which is $7.929 billion above the level proposed by the House Appropriations Committee for FY 2014 and $1.173 billion above the enacted FY 2014 level but $7.823 billion below the President’s budget request.
Failed- 159 to 260
9) Gosar (R-AZ) RC-291: This amendment reduces all sums available under the Department of Housing and Urban Development Management and Administration-Administrative Support Offices by 4.2 percent. According to Committee Report 113-464 “The Administrative Support Offices account funds the salaries and expenses of the Office of Administration, the Office of the Chief Human Capital Officer, the Office of the General Counsel, the Office of the Chief Financial Officer, the Office of the Chief Procurement Officer, the Office of Departmental Equal Employment Opportunity, the Office of Field Policy and Management, the Office of Strategic Planning and Management, and the Office of the Chief Information Officer.”
Failed- 190 to 232
10) Sessions (R-TX) RC 294: Would prohibit Amtrak from operating its money-losing long-distance routes. While Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor routes are actually profitable, in fiscal year 2015, the long-distance routes are projected to lose almost 700 million dollars
Amtrak is supposed to be self-sufficient, but is projected to run an operating loss of $333 million in FY15, requiring another infusion of funds from the taxpayers. The House Republican Budget recommended eliminating Amtrak operating subsidies. The RSC Budget proposed eliminating these subsidies for Amtrak, stating “Amtrak has no incentive to improve its performance if it knows that it will be able to count on the taxpayers for a bailout each year.”
Failed- 167 to 250
11) Gingrey (R-GA) RC 295: Would prohibit Federal workers from using official paid time to promote or engage in union activities. The Office of Personnel Management said employees spent nearly 3 million hours on union activities during fiscal 2009 at a cost of more than $129 million.
Failed- 167 to 254
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