House panel approves $52B transportation, housing bill for 2015

A House Appropriations subcommittee on Wednesday approved a $52 billion transportation and housing spending bill that even proponents admit is the result of "tough choices."

The bill, which was passed by voice vote, heads to the full committee where it is set to be voted on after next week’s House recess.

ADVERTISEMENT
The legislation cuts $1.8 billion in spending compared to this fiscal year, in part because of less offsetting revenue from the Federal Housing Finance Agency due to a weak housing market. 

“We didn’t give you enough to work with to begin with,” full committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) said, before praising the subcommittee’s “tough choices.” 

Retiring subcommittee chairman Tom Latham (R-Iowa) said the bill was difficult to craft and cited “many hours of trying to put a square peg in a round hole.” 

Last year, House leaders had to call off a floor vote on a 2014 transportation and housing bill with only $44.1 billion in spending. A deal rolling back much of sequestration in December made a higher spending level possible in both 2014 and in the new 2015 bill. 

“Hopefully we can get through to the end this year,” Latham said. 

“We received a tough allocation,” ranking member Ed Pastor (D-Ariz.) said at Wednesday’s markup meeting.

He said he was pleased that the bill does not eliminate funding for TIGER infrastructure grants and has, in his view, enough funding for the Federal Aviation Administration and Community Development Block Grants.

Full committee ranking member Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) also criticized the level of transportation funding. Specifically she said she opposed levels of Amtrak capital investment and a lack of funding to improve crude oil transport by rail.

Lowey also blasted riders affecting truck weight limits in Idaho, Wisconsin and Mississippi and one preventing California from spending money on high-speed rail. 

On Thursday, the full Appropriations Committee will consider a $51 billion Commerce, Justice and Science bill as well as a spending blueprint dividing the total discretionary budget of $1.014 trillion into 12 parts.

Those 302b allocations normally would have been approved prior to the start of subcommittee work. Rogers said that the unusual order was due a desire to start work before getting a Congressional Budget Office updated baseline, which was produced during Easter recess. 

More in Transportation

GOP rep.: Highway bill ‘a priority for us’

Read more »