Hoyer: Republican Cuts To Community Development Block Grants Are Egregious

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“I thank the Gentleman. Let me start with the fact that I choose to believe that Mr. [Congressman Tom] Latham does not like this bill. Mr. Latham's not listening to me. Mr. Chairman, I wanted to say that [as] I start my debate, that I choose to believe that you do not like this bill. I know you. I've worked with you over a long period of time. This bill is insufficient to meet the obligations of this Subcommittee. It is unworthy of the support of this House.

“Mr. Chairman, there are many things wrong with the 2014 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations bill, but perhaps none more egregious than its severely painful cuts to the Community Development Block Grants. Now, let me start with this observation. This is not about a poor people's program. It helps some poor people, but it helps communities – rich, moderate and poor. This is not about the 47%. This is about the 100%.

“The Community Development Block Grant program was enacted on a bipartisan basis in 1974 and signed into law by the President, Gerald Ford – former Minority Leader of this House, President of the United States. From its beginning, it's served as a model of how bipartisan compromise in Congress can help tackle important challenges on the local level. For nearly forty years, these grants have been awarded on a formula basis to state and local governments for infrastructure development, the creation and maintenance of affordable housing units, and anti-poverty initiatives. It makes communities better. It empowers Members of Congress to be able to help their local communities who elect them. These grants save lives in our largest cities and in our smallest towns – in Alaska, in Hawaii and in Maryland. The cuts in this bill would reduce Community Development Block Grants by more than half.

“America is not bankrupt. America need not claim defeat and retreat. America has the resources, if it has the will, to grow our economies, to grow our communities and to make them better. We appropriated around $3.8 billion for these grants in Fiscal Year 2012, while this bill would cut that figure to just $1.6 billion. To put this into perspective, in 2001, we spent $4.7 billion under George Bush – the second – on Community Development Block Grants.

“After years of whittling away at these critical grants which empower our states, counties, and cities to help the most vulnerable have a chance at finding jobs and putting roofs over their heads, it would be devastating to communities whose budgets are already pushed to the limit and rely on these grants to serve their residents – all of their residents.

“Our friends on the other side of the aisle talk a great deal about fiscal responsibility. What about social responsibility? I am a strong proponent of fiscal responsibility, but if fiscal responsibility is not coupled with social responsibility, it is not worthy of this House or this country. Community Development Block Grants are an instrument of our common citizenship and, yes, our common humanity.

“In this case, however, they are a poignant example of a Republican strategy of disinvestment in America and abandonment of our communities and their people. Surely we're better than that, Mr. Chairman. When we considered Veterans Affairs, Military Construction and Defense Appropriations bills that included robust funding, we knew those funds had to come from somewhere. Here it comes.

“Like our Republican friends, we believe we must invest in a strong national defense, as Chairwoman Mikulski has been doing on the Senate Appropriations Committee. But we do not share the Republican Majority's view that we ought to abandon our domestic priorities in the process. We're better than that. And none of us are surprised that their strategy to deal with the sequester is to ignore its consequences and impose cuts even deeper – even deeper, even deeper – than the sequester calls for. In fact, I know of a number of our colleagues on the Republican side who see the folly in such strategy but cannot or will not speak up for fear of the political consequences from the radical right.

“This bill is proof that such a strategy is under way. It's not only an abdication of responsible leadership, it is a recipe for gridlock, as Democrats in the House and Senate could never agree to it. Reject this bill. We can and must do better.”