The $56.5 billion transportation-housing spending bill approved in the House appropriations subcommittee July 11 strikes a balance between supporting projects with bipartisan popularity and making cuts in the president’s proposed budget.
The bill would provide $17.8 billion in discretionary spending for transportation programs in fiscal year 2018 and $38.3 billion for housing programs.
The bill was approved by a unanimous voice vote and will go before the full House committee the week of July 17 for markup.
Appropriations subcommittee ranking member David Price (D-N.C.) said that while he did not make any amendments to the draft bill, he expects the proposal to face “many hurdles” on its way to garnering bipartisan support as it progresses through the full committee.
“It’s very difficult to put together a bill where you have to prioritize. Now I think this is a very good bill. Are there areas where we’ll have to revisit? Absolutely,” Chairman Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) told reporters after the markup.
The bill would add $1 billion to the NextGen program to modernize air traffic control.
The allocation makes clear appropriators’ desire to keep air traffic control within the FAA, rather than going along with Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster’s (R-Pa.) air traffic control spinoff proposal.
Diaz-Balart said that while he supports modernizing the current system he disagrees with Shuster about privatizing air traffic control.
The bill includes $900 million in grants earmarked for the Gateway Project connecting northern New Jersey to New York.
“That’s an area that’s in dire need. That’s a big part of our national economy,” Diaz-Balart said. “I purposely wanted to focus on that.”
During the markup, full committee Chairman Rodney P. Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.) and ranking member Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) praised the bill’s commitment to funding the project in the congested corridor.
The bill should go before the full committee for markup the week of July 17.
Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao is scheduled to testify before a Senate Appropriations transportation subcommittee July 13 at 2 p.m. The Senate has not yet released its spending bill for markup.
Though the president’s budget proposed to entirely cut Community Development Block Grants—which enable states and municipalities to provide services and community resources for low-income Americans—the House bill funds the grants at $2.9 billion.
“The bill restores a number of community development programs that were proposed for elimination in the budget request—CDBG, HOME, and Capacity Building. We listened to our Members from both sides of the aisle, who made sure we knew this was a priority,” Diaz-Balart said during the markup.
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