The House just completed work on another FY 2013 spending bill; the Transportation-HUD Appropriations bill. This is a unique appropriations bill because most of the underlying content is an anathema to conservatives. A good part of transportation (highway spending) should be within the purview of state governments; mass transit spending should be eliminated; HUD should be abolished altogether. As you can imagine, the open floor process offered Republicans many opportunities to cut spending, and more importantly, to limit the power of the federal government in areas that it shouldn’t be involved with in the first place.
The Transportation-HUD bill is a classic example of the pitfalls in focusing exclusively on the dollar figure of a bill, instead of whether the legislation actually limits government. On paper, this bill represents a spending cut from last year. The bill provides a net total spending level of $51.6 billion, which is $3.9 billion less than last year. The problem is that it actually grows government and increases funding for wasteful and unconstitutional programs by a few billion. The bottom line figure shows a net decrease in spending because of the projected increase in offsetting revenues from FHA lending fees. So while total outlays will go down, government will continue to grow. The bill actually increases spending on Amtrak, the DC metro, Essential Air Service, “community development” and “neighborhood reinvestment” programs.
Once again, conservatives offered a slew of amendments to enact some modest cuts just to keep spending levels in line with last year’s appropriations, but they were voted down. Many of these amendments merely limited spending to FY 2012 levels. Special thanks to Reps. Flake, McClintock, and Broun for once again leading the charge.
The underlying bill passed 261-163, with only 55 Republicans voting no.
You can view a color-coded spreadsheet of the members’ performance on some major amendments at The Madison Performance Index [click here]. You can view the roll call on final passage sorted by Cook PVI (most Republican to least) here. As you can see, we’ve got serious problems in all parts of the country.
Here is a brief synopsis of those amendments:
- McClintock AMDT to eliminate the Essential Air Service rural pork program. This program provides $1000+ per-seat subsidy for airlines to fly into small airports that would otherwise be unprofitable. Failed 164-238 [roll call #417]
- Garrett AMDT to eliminate earmark to Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. Why should DC get a special funding stream over other metro areas? Failed 160-243 [roll call #418]
- Gosar AMDT to reduce by $24.4 million the amount provided for salaries and expenses of administration, management and operations of HUD. Failed 179-224 [roll call #420]
- Broun AMDT to reduce by $5.4 million the amount provided for expenses of the Federal Railroad Administration. This returns spending for this purpose to FY 2012 levels. Failed 173-230 [roll call #421]
- Broun AMDT to reduce by $1.3 million the amount provided for administrative expenses of the Federal Transit Administration’s programs. This returns spending for this purpose to FY 2012 levels. Failed 188-218 [roll call #422]
- Broun AMDT to reduce by $1.67 million the amount provided for operational expenses of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. This returns spending for this purpose to FY 2012 levels. There’s no evidence that it needs an increase. Failed 138-265 [roll call #423]
- Broun AMDT to reduce by $6.5 million the amount provided for salaries and expenses of the Office of Public and Indian Housing at the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Again, this merely kept spending at FY 2012 levels for a program that shouldn’t exist in the first place. Failed 168-256 [roll call #424]
- Broun AMDT to reduce by $110 million the amount provided for the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Public Housing Capital Fund Program. Failed 169-250 [roll call #429]
- Broun amendment to reduce by $12.3 million the amount provided for payment to the Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation. This amendment merely keeps the spending in line with Obama’s budget request! Failed 172-250 [roll call #432]
- McClintock AMDT to eliminate all funding for the Community Development Fund for assistance to state and local governments, a total of $3.4 billion. Look, if Republicans can’t get the federal government out of urban pork, we should just call it quits. Failed 80-342 [roll call #434]
- Flake AMDT to reduce the amount provided for the HOME investment partnerships program by $200 million. In 2011, the Washington Post described this program as “a dysfunctional system that delivers billions of dollars to local housing agencies with few rules, safeguards or even a reliable way to track projects.” The Flake amendment merely prevented the increase in funding from FY 2012 levels! Failed 178-242 [roll call #436]