Appropriations update: Debate ends over T-HUD, brownfields funded in Senate

In an unusual situation on Capitol Hill this week, both the House and Senate had an opportunity to pass their versions of the FY 2014 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) bills – a bill that funds critical transportation and community development programs around the country.

On Thursday the Senate moved to cut off debate for S. 1243, which would have brought it to a vote before the August recess. However, the measure failed 54-43 – falling short of the 60 votes needed to end debate and advance the legislation. The Senate version of THUD would have appropriated $54 billion to the programs at the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), nearly $10 billion above the lacking House version. The Senate bill included funding for many of the country’s most important community development programs, namely $550 million for the extremely popular TIGER program and $75 million for the Integrated Planning and Investment Grants.

Geoff Anderson, President and CEO of Smart Growth America said, “I am extremely disappointed, Senate leaders had a very good bill, the fact that it was blocked is a loss for communities. Communities across the country rely on crucial community development programs funded by this bill to help strengthen their economies and provide vital services for the people that need them the most. Failure to move this bill forward is a failure for America’s middle class.”

In the House, Republican leadership pulled H.R. 2610 from the floor stating that they did not have enough time for consideration of the full list proposed amendments before the August recess. However, it has also been reported that the true reason Leadership pulled the bill was they did not have the 218 votes to pass the legislation. It appears there was a intra-party dispute about the the severe cuts made by the House T-HUD bill to programs that spur community development. For example, the House bill proposed to completely ignore the success of the TIGER program and Integrated Planning and Investment Grants, leaving them out of the bill entirely. The proposed House bill would have appropriated $44.1 billion to the programs at DOT and HUD, which is $7.7 billion below FY 2013 levels.

Commenting on the House Bill, Anderson said, “It is regrettable that members of the House did not recognize the opportunity to invest in programs that are critical to community redevelopment. Both the base bill as well as pulling the bill off the floor without completing its consideration are disappointments.”

When the House and Senate return in September it looks like both the House and Senate will move to consider a continuing resolution instead.

This week the House Appropriations Committee also started a full-committee mark up of the FY 2014 Interior and Environment appropriations bill, which would have cut funding for the EPA by 34% overall—and zeroed out funding for the Brownfields Program and the Smart Growth Program. House Leadership insisted that the drastic cuts only affect “lower-priority, or ‘nice-to-have’ programs.” Just before the August recess, the Senate Appropriations committee released their version of the FY 2014 Interior and Environment appropriations bill which recognized the powerful economic impact of these programs and includes $167 million in funding for the Brownfields program, which is $6 million above the President’s budget and funds the Smart Growth Program at the President’s budget request according to the report language.