DOT chief: Sequestration a ‘blunt instrument’ that should be replaced

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"There needs to be some … recognition that sequestration is a blunt instrument and it's going to be a tough blow, particularly to aviation, if we continue with sequestration in our lines of business here," Foxx said.

The House's THUD measure, which drew a veto threat from President Obama, cuts $7 billion from the Transportation and Housing departments' 2013 budgets. The measure includes a 21 percent reduction to Amtrak's appropriations and completely eliminates high-speed rail funding, which had been a priority of the Obama administration.

The bill also cuts $1.3 billion from the Housing and Urban Development's Community Development Block Grant program.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) predicted on Thursday that the GOP-led chamber would be able to pass the legislation when lawmakers return from their traditional August recess in September.

"I believe votes would have been there for the THUD bill, but we had some 50 amendments yet to consider on that bill, and considering everything else we've got on this week, [we] decided that finishing that bill in September was the right thing to do," Boehner said during a news conference on Thursday.

"I had full confidence that the votes would have been there to pass that bill," he continued.

The Senate was unsuccessful in its attempt on Thursday to pass its own version of the Transportation and Housing bill that would have spent $10 billion more than the House on the departments. A vote to close debate on the measure failed to reach the 60-vote threshold to advance the legislation on Thursday.

Foxx said during his briefing that the inability of lawmakers to finish the transportation and housing bills before they leave town for five weeks could hurt construction projects that typically take place in the summer.

"At the end user side of this, it's very difficult because you can't plan," said Foxx, who was formerly mayor of Charlotte, N.C. "It's tough to know how to plan long-term when there's not long-term certainty at the federal level."

Like Boehner, Foxx expressed confidence that lawmakers would approve the transportation and housing funding bills when they return to Washington in September.

"I'm confident that on a bipartisan basis, our leaders in Congress understand that we need to figure this out," Foxx said. 

The current funding for the transportation and housing departments is scheduled to run out at the end of September.