Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2013—Motion to Proceed—Continuedby Senator Patty Murray
Posted on 2014-01-15
MURRAY. Mr. President, I wish to start by thanking my friend,
the distinguished Senator from Maryland, as well as her counterpart in
the House, Chairman Rogers. They have shown great leadership in working
across the aisle to accomplish this mammoth task we had given them on a
very tight timeline, and I appreciate their efforts.
I am here today to talk about why it is important we pass this Omnibus appropriations bill and continue to build on the bipartisan steps we have taken so far.
Last week I spoke at a press conference on youth unemployment with a young man who was present. His name was James. Listening to James, it was pretty clear he was hard-working and ambitious. But he explained to me, as old as he is, in his twenties, he is still living at home with his parents because despite a lot of searching he has not been able to find a job.
What was clear to me from James' story and from a lot of others across the country is that even though the economy has made progress, far too many Americans still aren't feeling the benefits. Too many of them are working more hours and earning less or wondering whether they can afford to send their kids to college or worrying that they won't be able to save enough to retire. Those are the kinds of problems we need to be thinking about here and solving.
I hope our work this session, this year, will be entirely focused on doing everything we can to create more jobs and more opportunities for all Americans, especially those who are struggling in what is still a very tough economy. There is a lot we need to get done. If one lesson came out of the constant crises last year, it is that in a divided government the only way to get things done is through compromise and bipartisanship.
The budget deal Chairman Ryan and I worked together on and reached is a good example. It wasn't the bill I would have written on my own. It wasn't the bill Chairman Ryan would have written on his own either. But after hearing from families and communities in my home State of Washington, I knew we needed to do more to restore the critical investments that were being lost as a result of sequestration, and we needed to break out of the constant crises which have caused so much gridlock and dysfunction over the last several years. So I worked with Chairman Ryan to reach a compromise. I am [[Page S348]] pleased that our agreement rolled back some of those automatic across- the-board cuts to priorities important to all of us, such as education, infrastructure, and research. We did that in a balanced way, without relying on spending cuts alone.
Importantly, in reaching that deal we were able to lay some groundwork so Chairman Mikulski and Chairman Rogers could move forward on the important work of funding the government. Families and communities across the country will be better off as the result of their leadership. Their legislation invests in starting our children off strongly by expanding access to early Head Start for infants and families. It expands access to Pell grants to help more of our young adults today afford higher education. It supports other important priorities such as medical research, which help create jobs and spur innovation.
In my home State of Washington, I know all of these investments, as well as others, such as funding for the Columbia River Crossing Project, for repairs and improvements at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, are going to make a huge difference.
I wish to spend a few moments as chair of the Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development to talk about some of the important parts of that bill within this Omnibus.
That bill addresses critical challenges on everything from homelessness, affordable housing, to traffic congestion, and transportation safety. This bill represents a very firm commitment to providing housing and supporting services to families in need. It actually increases funding for the section 8 program which provides housing for our low-income families in this country. If funding had remained at the sequester level, more than 100,000 families today would be at risk of losing that assistance and becoming homeless. Under our bill, that will not happen.
I am also very proud that the bill includes $75 million for vouchers for the joint HUD-Veterans Affairs supportive housing program. As a result of that funding, an additional 10,000 homeless veterans and their families will have access to housing and supportive services.
Our housing and transportation bill prioritizes job creation and economic growth by investing in transportation. It includes $600 million in TIGER funding, which supports projects that improve transportation safety and reduce traffic congestion. That, by the way, is in addition to the $41 billion in much-needed funding to repair our Nation's roads and bridges.
But our bill isn't just about roads and bridges. Americans are increasingly relying on public transit, so I am especially pleased our bill provides more than $10.7 billion to support our public transit system.
Also, last year across-the-board spending cuts known as sequestration forced the Federal Aviation Administration to enact a hiring freeze, which meant when employees such as our air traffic controllers left the agency, no one was hired to replace them. So our bipartisan bill ensures the FAA has the resources it needs to end that hiring freeze and hire and train new employees who can help our air travel be safe. This bill fully funds the Essential Air Service and contract tower programs on which so many of our communities depend.
We also include reforms to improve the programs we fund--for example, important section 8 reforms to reduce costs and create efficiencies.
In short, I am very pleased with what my colleagues and I in the Senate and House have been able to accomplish together on housing and transportation investments in this bill. I wish to take a moment and especially thank my colleague on the Senate transportation and housing appropriations bill, Senator Collins, for all of her great work and support during this entire process.
I am very proud to be part of the tireless effort of Chairwoman Mikulski. She has worked very hard to make sure we have a full appropriations bill and act considered, and not just another continuing resolution.
Just like Chairman Ryan and I said when we finished our deal, I am pretty sure Chairwoman Mikulski and Chairman Rogers would each agree this package is not perfect. Each of them probably would have done certainly different things on their own. But because they were willing to compromise, they are delivering far more for the American people than either could have done if they had refused to work together.
If this legislation is passed into law--which I strongly believe it will be--we will have a choice to make: We can build on the bipartisan work which has been done so far and continue reaching agreements through compromises, as people across this country do every day, or we can see more of the all-or-nothing approach which caused so much damage last year.
I was in fact really disappointed that yesterday my colleagues rejected a good-faith offer to provide relief to workers and families who are still struggling in this country to get back on their feet, even after Democrats time and time again offered compromises to try to get a deal. We tried hard to reach a fair agreement that both sides could support, and we are going to keep trying. I hope today our Republican colleagues will think of the many families out there who need this lifeline and look at the great bipartisan work done on the appropriations bill, and I hope they will reconsider their return to all-or-nothing political tactics.
I know there are fundamental differences here between the two parties. I know compromise is never easy. But we can't afford to let those challenges get in the way of delivering for the families and communities we serve. And we don't have to. The legislation Chairwoman Mikulski and Chairman Rogers just completed is proof that there is a much better way to get things done. If both sides are willing to continue to make some tough choices, there is much more we can do together to create jobs, strengthen the recovery, and build the foundation for stronger, broader growth in the future.
I thank Chairwoman Mikulski and Chairman Rogers again for their leadership. I hope we can all build on their bipartisan step forward by choosing to work together, and find opportunities for compromise and continue to deliver for the American people.
Mr. President, I yield the floor.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Kansas.