House Dems line up protest cuts in transportation, housing bill

"I would be hard pressed to find a better example of fiddling while Rome burns than the House majority's budget and appropriations process this year," House Appropriations Committee ranking member Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) said.

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Lowey and other Democrats noted that the Senate bill under consideration spends $10 billion more than the House bill. But Republicans reiterated that spending bills in the Senate are ignoring the sequester completely, which ignores current law that calls for the cuts.

And while Democrats blamed the GOP's budget plan from Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) defended Ryan by saying his budget simply reflects the reality of the sequester.

"That reduction is due to the Budget Control Act and the mechanism of sequestration, not the Ryan budget, which simply recognizes the realities that have been agreed upon and passed into law," Cole said.

Some of the Democrats' arguments were heard during general debate on the bill. But when it came time to consider amendments, Democrats continued their protest for more than an hour. Rep. Ed Pastor (D-Ariz.) argued that the GOP bill allows an "impossible allocation" of $44.1 billion, which he said is not enough to fund critical programs.

"The bill before us today is so bad it's hard to imagine how it can be fixed," Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) added.

Democrats argued that the only way to avoid the cuts is to reach a broad budget deal, and they implored Republicans to work with Democrats toward that goal.

"The American people… want this budget standoff to end so that we can avoid shutting down the government in October," Lowey said. However, Republicans have said for the last several weeks that a budget conference with the Senate is unlikely, as Senate Democrats are insisting on new taxes in a budget deal for the next year.

The bill cuts Community Development Block Grants for housing by 30 percent, which Democrats have said is the lowest level in more than 20 years. It also cut rental assistance, and funding to control lead hazards in homes across the country.

The bill cuts Amtrak's capital program by 37 percent, which Democrats said would result in deferred maintenance on the rail line. It cuts $576 million for the FAA's air traffic control modernization program, and cuts broad infrastructure spending under the National Infrastructure Investment (TIGER) grants.