11/01/2019 — 

WASHINGTON, DC – In a long overdue vote, and with federal agencies currently operating under a short-term continuing resolution that expires on November 21st, the U.S. Senate finally passed the first package of fiscal 2020 spending bills. 

By a vote of 84-9, the full U.S. Senate approved a $332 billion appropriations package, which combines four domestic spending bills covering the departments of Agriculture; the Interior-Environment; Commerce-Justice-Science; and Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD).

U.S. Senator Jack Reed, the Ranking Member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies, helped write the bipartisan fiscal year 2020 THUD Appropriations bill and steer it through unanimous approval by the full Appropriations Committee last month.  The $74.3 billion discretionary spending package will help advance road and bridge projects, boost aviation safety, expand affordable housing opportunities, and preserve community economic development investments.  The measure rejects President Trump’s proposal to steeply cut transportation and housing programs, and instead provides increases in many key initiatives.                  

After weeks of trying to force through partisan appropriations measures to help fund President Trump’s ineffective U.S.-Mexico border wall, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has finally allowed some bipartisan funding bills to be debated and passed in the Senate.

A month into the fiscal year, the Senate finally passed only four of the 12 fiscal 2020 spending bills.  And lawmakers must still go to conference between the House and Senate to work out differences between these bills.

“President Trump’s border wall obsession is stalling the appropriations process and preventing Congress from making needed investments to power our economy and strengthen the middle-class,” said Senator Reed.  “President Trump may feel it benefits him politically to threaten government shutdowns and continue with this short-term, stop gap spending approach, but the uncertainty he creates negatively impacts the ability of federal agencies to effectively do their jobs, serve taxpayers, and plan for the future.  President Trump’s penchant for chaos is no way to run a country.”

Reed noted that the THUD portion of the bill directs over $86.6 billion in total budgetary resources to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) in order to improve the safety, reliability, and efficiency of our transportation networks.  These investments will allow for the development of transformative projects across all modes of transportation and will make significant strides to address the deferred maintenance backlog in our airport, highway, rail, and transit systems.  The bill also includes $1 billion for infrastructure grants that Senator Reed advocated for through the Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) grant program, as well as enhanced funding for Amtrak.

“I am pleased we were able to secure major investments to help states repair and replace aging infrastructure, including bridges.  Our transportation network is the backbone of our economy.  The federal government needs to help states upgrade existing bridge infrastructure to prevent more costly repairs and emergencies down the road,” noted Senator Reed.

The bill also provides $48.6 billion in discretionary resources for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).  It makes key investments to preserve affordable housing for nearly five million low-income households; prevent and end homelessness for the more than 552,000 people experiencing homelessness; expand affordable housing and community development opportunities in more than 1,200 communities; and improve environmental conditions for more than 19,000 low-income households.  Furthermore, the bill restores funding for critical housing production and economic development programs, which were proposed for elimination in the President’s budget request.  This includes sustained investments in the HOME program and the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, which give local governments needed resources to advance their communities, support businesses, create jobs, and ensure the availability of decent, affordable housing.

Once the full Senate approves its own spending bills, it must still reconcile them with the House of Representatives.  The two chambers must agree on some form of spending plan before November 21 in order to keep the federal government operational and prevent a shutdown.