Reid files cloture on Transportation, Housing bill

For two weeks, the Senate has been considering S. 1243, the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) Appropriations bill, which funds government transportation and housing agencies.

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Reid said he would allow votes on pending amendments and one from Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) that would redirect foreign assistance to Egypt to U.S. infrastructure projects because military coup d'état in the country. Votes on those amendments will start tomorrow morning.

Democrats chose to debate the THUD appropriations bill first to highlight the stark spending difference between the two chambers, in an effort to push Republicans into a budget conference committee. 

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 — setting up the potential for a challenging conference committee. 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.

“This bloated bill has zero chance of becoming law,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said Tuesday.

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.

The Senate bill would also prohibit the Federal Aviation Administration from using rules on domestic drones, limits Amtrak employee overtime and requires the Department of Transportation to notify Congress of grants it issues.

Reid said he wants to complete work on the bill by the end of the week.

Last week, the Senate defeated a GOP motion to recommit the bill. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) complained that the $54 billion THUD bill exceeded spending caps set in the Budget Control Act.

The Senate has approved five GOP amendments to the bill so far and one Democratic amendment — all were minor changes.