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Murray Brings Up Critical Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development Spending Bill; Republicans Block Senate Consideration Again

Dec 05 2007

In floor speech following Republican obstruction, Murray highlights sup-prime mortgage support and infrastructure funding included in critical bill

Republicans block Appropriations bill vote as President lashes out at Congress for not passing them

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) called-up her Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development (THUD) bill for a vote on the Senate floor. However, following the pattern of obstruction Republicans have established this year, they blocked a Senate vote on the bill. The Republican's refusal to vote on this bill that funds the nations roads, highways, airports, affordable housing, and community development projects comes as President Bush continues to call on Congress to pass yearly appropriations bills. Senator Murray highlighted this obvious contradiction in a speech she delivered following the Republican objection to the bill.

In her speech, Senator Murray highlighted how the THUD bill addresses the sub-prime housing crises head-on with nearly $200 million for housing counseling to help keep struggling mortgage holders in their homes. Senator Murray also discussed how the flooding in Washington state reinforces the importance of the transportation infrastructure funding in the bill.

The full text of Senator Murray's floor remarks are below:

Mr. President, I’ve come to the floor today to make sure the record is clear on the difference between:

  • What is being said in Washington D.C., today,
  • And what is actually taking place.

Just yesterday, President Bush took to the microphones to complain – for the second day in a row – that Congress isn’t getting its work done.  

For the second day in a row, he complained that Congress isn’t sending him Appropriations bills that fund the most basic functions of our Government.

And for the second day in a row, our Minority Leader, Senator McConnell, followed suit.

He complained on the Senate floor that Congress hasn’t sent Appropriations bills to the President.

Republicans are Blocking the THUD Bill

Well, M. President, just seconds ago, I made a motion to pass the final conference report for the Transportation – Housing Appropriations bill and send it on to President Bush.

And what was the result?  The Republican Senators blocked it from going to the White House.

It wasn’t the first time, either.  They blocked it from going to the White House twice before – two and half weeks ago on November 15th and 16th.   

Let me tell you what’s going on here.

President Bush and the Senate Republican Leadership are trying to quietly block our progress on funding the needs of the American people while loudly complaining about our failure to make progress.

This Bill is Not Divisive

Mr. President, I would understand the actions of the Senate Republican Leadership if our Transportation-Housing bill was partisan and divisive.

But Mr. President, the conference agreement that we’re trying to move today has the support of every single Republican who sat on the conference committee in the House and Senate.  This bill originally passed the Senate with 88 votes.

The conference agreement has already passed the House with 270 votes.

This bill isn’t controversial.  It makes critical investments in some of the most urgent needs of the American people and their local communities.

The bill provides:
 

  • $195 million to replace the I-35W bridge that collapsed in Minneapolis.
  • $1 billion in enhanced highway formula funding so all 50 states can inspect and make repairs to their most deficient bridges.
  • And $75 million in new housing vouchers to shelter homeless veterans, including struggling veterans who have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • It rejects hundreds of millions of dollars in cuts proposed by the White House, which would throw Amtrak into bankruptcy and make congestion at our airports worse – not better.
  • The bill also includes $200 million, which is urgently needed to provide housing counseling services to keep struggling mortgage holders in their homes.

 

We Want to Deliver on the Need for Housing Counseling

Mr. President, I want to take a moment to discuss this last item – the $200 million for housing counseling.

This nation is in the middle of a housing crisis. 

Millions of homeowners risk losing their homes in the next few quarters as the interest rates on billions and billions of dollars in mortgages are adjusted upward.

On Monday, the President’s Treasury Secretary, Hank Paulson, and his Housing Secretary, Alphonso Jackson, made speeches on the need for Congress to address the many steps necessary to minimize this crisis.

Secretary Paulson complained at a National Housing Forum about the number of borrowers who were entering foreclosure without contacting either their lender or a mortgage counselor.

He said:

“For this public outreach campaign to be successful, there must be enough trained mortgage counselors to answer the phone when homeowners call.  The Administration requested funding for NeighborWorks Amerca and other non-profit mortgage counseling operations in its budget.  But the appropriations bill has yet to be finalized; Congress needs to get it done quickly.”

Well, Mr. President.  We can do that right now.  In fact, we could have done it last month.

We are trying to send a bill that includes a critical investment in housing counseling to the White House – just as Secretary Paulson said he wanted us to do.

The bipartisan conferees on this bill agreed that the amount the President asked for was too low to meet the demand for housing counseling given the size of the problem.

Congress acted, and increased it substantially.

But even though every Republican conferee on our bill signed onto that plan, we are now being blocked from sending it to the White House.

I only wish the Senate Republican Leadership would follow the words of Secretary Paulson and Secretary Jackson about the urgent need for this initiative.

Mr. President, yesterday’s Washington Post published an article on our $200 million housing counseling initiative.  I ask unanimous consent that this article appear in the Record at this point.

The article describes the importance of non-profit housing counseling agencies and all they can do to keep mortgage holders in their homes.

Washington State Storms Highlight the Need for This Bill

Finally, Mr. President, I want to say that the storms in my home state of Washington highlight how important this bill is.

Devastating mudslides and floods in Washington and Oregon have swamped homes and washed out roads all across both states.Many roads are still closed, including a 20-mile stretch of Interstate 5 – a major artery connecting Seattle and Portland.

And the floods have virtually isolated communities in parts of the Northwest.  My heart goes out to all the families who have been affected.

We’ll be feeling the effects of this storm for a long time, even when the flood waters recede.

And that’s not just because it has caused serious damage to our roads and bridges. 

Mr. President, the closure of I-5 forced cars and trucks traveling from Seattle to Portland to detour through the Tri-Cities – a drive that takes at least four hours longer, and means drivers have to cross the mountain pass east of Seattle.Think about the effect that will have on businesses, which rely on our highways in order to move goods quickly and safely.

The impact of these storms reinforces how important our transportation infrastructure is to everyone.  We need to make sure we keep up our investments in our roads and bridges, and in our airports and railways, because one rainstorm, one bridge disaster, one airport disruption can have huge impacts on our families and our nation’s economy.