GOP amendment to Transportation bill ends housing assistance for criminals

Vitter’s amendment would prohibit housing authorities from giving violent criminals who have been convicted of violent or sexual assaults against women or children any taxpayer funded housing assistance.

“I think it’s very reasonable and commonsense to say these crimes have serious consequences … like a stiff jail sentence,” Vitter said ahead of the vote. “But also that federal taxpayer won’t give you help for housing.”

Sen. John Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) was the only senator to vote against Vitter's amendment.

Earlier Tuesday, the Senate voted 73-26 to proceed to consideration of S. 1243, the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) Appropriations bill, which funds government transportation and housing agencies.

There is a $91 billion difference in spending levels between the House and Senate appropriations this year. For the THUD bill, the difference is $10 billion. The Senate bill is  $54 billion, while the House has a $44 billion bill, which is a cut of $7 billion from last year’s spending level.

The House Republican bill cuts the Community Development Block Grant program and high-speed rail projects, while Senate Democrats maintain most existing funding for those programs.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), the ranking Republican on the Appropriations subcommittee that handled the bill, said she supported Vitter’s amendment because it would help protect those living in federal housing against violent criminals.

The Transportation bill is the first of 12 annual spending bills the Senate has taken up.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he selected that appropriations bill to bring to the floor first to highlight the spending differences between the House and Senate, in an effort to push Republicans into forming a budget conference committee.

The Senate is expected to continue work on the bill throughout most of the week. Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the chairman of the subcommittee encouraged senators to offer amendments to work on the bill could be quickly completely.

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