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(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash) helped introduce a $141 billion bill that funds the Departments of Transportation, Treasury, the Judiciary, Housing and Urban Development, and related agencies for fiscal year 2006.

Murray helped draft the bill as the ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation.

"This bill covers areas such as infrastructure, public housing, and the judiciary that are critical to millions of American families and to keeping our economy strong," Murray said. "For our country to reach its full potential, we need to invest in the priorities that are in this bill."

"I think the best feature of this bill is that it rejects many of the painful and unwise cuts that were proposed in the President's budget," Murray said. "Whether it is funding to continue rail service in the country or building new runways to relieve congestion at our airports, to construct new housing for low-income seniors and for our disabled; whether it is to invest in community development or provide needed assistance to taxpayers or aggressively enforce our drug laws, this bill rejects the President's painful cuts. Instead, our bill invests the funds to make our world safer and advance the needs of our infrastructure and our people."

UPDATE: This bill passed the Senate 93-1 on October 20th.

Senator Murray's remarks on the Senator floor follow:

Mrs. MURRAY. Mr. President, I am very pleased that the Senate is now considering the Transportation-Treasury bill, formally known as H.R. 3058. It is the appropriations bill for the Departments of Transportation, Treasury, the Judiciary, Housing and Urban Development, and related agencies for fiscal year 2006.

This bill covers areas such as infrastructure, public housing, and the judiciary that are critical to millions of American families and to keeping our economy strong. For our country to reach its full potential, we need to invest in the priorities that are in this bill. Today, many people do not feel very secure about the future. They feel as though they are one slip away from losing their job, or they are worried about the fact that they will not be able to retire or to pay for a trip to the doctor if their child gets sick.

To make America strong again, we need to invest at home. We need to invest in our communities, in our schools, in our people, and in our infrastructure. That is what the bill now before us does.

In the last few months, we have seen how important it is to have a strong and reliable infrastructure. Tonight I want to offer my colleagues an overview of what this bill funds and some of the most important investments, but first I want to note that several things have changed since last year.

As my colleagues know, our Senate subcommittee has changed significantly. Last year, three separate appropriations subcommittees were responsible for funding the agencies that are now in this bill. Even so, the Senate did not have the opportunity to debate and amend any of the appropriations bills that funded these agencies. Since then, the Appropriations Committee has been restructured. As a result, this bill was crafted by one new and very much larger committee. We now have 19 members. Only the Defense Subcommittee is as large.

Fortunately for all of us, we have Senator Bond as our very able chairman. Senator Bond has demonstrated his skill and fair-mindedness time and again during his leadership of the former VA Subcommittee. This year, he continues to demonstrate his leadership, and the proof is in this bill. It was reported unanimously by both the subcommittee and the full Appropriations Committee back in July.

In addition to the changes we witnessed in the last year, we have seen dramatic changes in the 12 weeks since we marked up this bill. First and foremost has been the devastation of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. More than 1 million people were forced to evacuate the region, including low-income citizens who remain eligible for housing assistance from HUD. Today, because of the devastation, even more people are eligible for Federal housing assistance.

Other Federal agencies that are funded in this bill have responded to the hurricanes. In the Department of Transportation, the Maritime Administration has deployed ships from the Ready Reserve fleet to the gulf to assist in recovery efforts. DOT personnel have also been involved in the effort to obtain trucks and buses to move personnel and equipment. Amtrak assisted in the evacuation of storm victims from both New Orleans and Houston. The hurricanes showed us that we need workable plans to evacuate large numbers of low-income residents who depend on public transit. I truly hope the Department of Transportation and FEMA are hard at work on those plans.

In the judiciary, Hurricane Katrina has required the emergency relocation of 36 Federal judges and more than 400 staff. The New Orleans office of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has been abandoned, as have the Federal District and Bankruptcy Courts for Eastern Louisiana and Southern Mississippi.

Another change since we marked up this bill in July concerns energy prices. Back in late July, the average price per gallon of regular gasoline was $2.27. Today it is more than 25 percent higher. Gas costs more than $3 a gallon in many parts of our country. High gas prices are hurting our families, our businesses, and our communities. This price spike is already causing revenues to our Federal and State transportation trust funds to diminish. That could have a serious impact on the ability of our States to finance their highest priority road projects.

The recent spike in fuel prices has also further undermined the financial condition of the Nation's airlines. Since we first marked up this bill, another two major U.S. carriers and one regional carrier have entered bankruptcy. That threatens the long-term availability of air service to the communities across the country and to tens of thousands of jobs.

Also, since we first marked up this appropriations bill, we passed the authorization bill and made significant progress on Amtrak reform. First, just prior to the August recess, thanks again to the very able work of Chairman Bond, the Congress passed the conference report on the surface transportation bill, now known as SAFETEA-LU. This law will now guide the direction of our Federal highway, transit, and highway safety programs for the next 5 years.

Secondly, following the markup of this bill, the Senate Commerce Committee reported a comprehensive Amtrak reform bill. That bill has yet to come before the Senate, but it is important legislation that must inform this subcommittee's deliberations going forward.

So as I said earlier, we have seen some dramatic and in some cases tragic changes since the Appropriations Committee first reported this bill. But even with those changes, this bill deserves the strong bipartisan support of the Senate.

This bill totals more than $141.4 billion. That is more than $11.6 billion over the President's request. I think the best feature of this bill is that it rejects many of the painful and unwise cuts that were proposed in the President's budget. Whether it is funding to continue rail service in the country or building new runways to relieve congestion at our airports, to construct new housing for low-income seniors and for our disabled; whether it is to invest in community development or provide needed assistance to taxpayers or aggressively enforce our drug laws, this bill rejects the President's painful cuts. Instead, our bill invests the funds to make our world safer and advance the needs of our infrastructure and our people.

I thank Chairman Cochran and Senator Byrd for providing our subcommittee with the necessary allocation so we could make these critical investments. Chairman Bond also deserves a great deal of credit for ensuring that even with so many new programs now under our jurisdiction, every program was thoroughly reviewed and considered.

I thank Chairman Bond for treating me as a full partner in this endeavor. His door has always been open to me. While we do not see eye to eye on every funding level and every provision in the bill, I think the bill we are considering is truly an effort at bipartisan consensus, and I thank the chairman for that.

I would like to review some of the priorities in this bill, starting with aviation. This bill rejects the administration's proposal to slash funding for our Nation's airports. It also preserves funding for the essential Air Service Program so that rural communities across the country will continue to receive air service.

I am also pleased that the bill attempts to boost hiring of our air safety inspectors at the FAA. Last year this committee fully funded the President's request for safety inspectors. What happened? The FAA downsized that office by more than 300 people. With the Nation's airlines in turmoil and all the airlines seeking to cut costs, this is not the time to cut our safety inspector workforce as I described in detail on the Senate floor just a few weeks ago. For Amtrak, our bill includes $1.45 billion. That is a 20-percent increase over the current year. Now, the DOT inspector general testified that Amtrak would require between $1.4 billion and $1.5 billion next year to maintain all of its current routes and services. This funding recommendation falls right in the middle of that range. This bill also recommends some reforms for Amtrak in the interest of helping Amtrak cut costs. The President's budget asks that we throw Amtrak into bankruptcy and leave 22 million Americans stranded on the platform. This bill categorically rejects that approach and preserves all current rail routes so a meaningful debate on reform can continue without the threat of a crisis.

Funding for the judiciary is up 6.6 percent. That is slightly higher than the level that was passed by the House of Representatives, and I am confident that this funding level will enable the judiciary to continue its important work without the threat of staff layoffs.

Within the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the President proposed to move the Community Development Block Grant Program over to the Department of Commerce and cut its funding by more than a third. I am very pleased to say that we will continue to fund CDBG in this bill, and we limited the funding cut to just 8 percent.

Some of the more damaging cuts in the President's HUD budget include cuts to new construction for housing for the disabled and cuts to funding for housing funds for AIDS patients, and those have been rejected.

Within the Executive Office of the President, the White House proposed to cut funding for the drug law enforcement activities of the high intensity drug tracking areas by more than 50 percent. Our bill, however, rejects that cut entirely and fully funds the HIDTA Program.

Turning to Federal workers, this bill provides a 3.1-percent pay raise for all Federal employees. It is an identical adjustment for military and civilian workers.

I am also very pleased that Chairman Bond and Senator Mikulski reached a compromise on competitive sourcing. It will provide a level playing field when it comes to efforts by the Federal Government to contract out Federal jobs.

As I have outlined, this bill makes some critical investments in our transportation infrastructure, in our ability to house the poor and administer justice, and the pressing needs, of course, of our highways and airways and transit systems. I urge my colleagues to support this bipartisan bill so we can strengthen our local communities and our entire country.

I will repeat the words of my chairman, Senator Bond, and encourage my colleagues to bring their amendments to the Senate floor. The sooner we start these amendments, the sooner we can review them and perhaps get them adopted. One thing I do know is, as of right now, there is still hope that the St. Louis Cardinals are going to reverse course and win the National League Championship Series. I cannot guarantee to any of my colleagues that Chairman Bond is going to greet their amendments warmly, but I know he will greet them less warmly if the Cardinals are eliminated this evening, so I suggest to all my colleagues they bring their amendments to the floor as soon as possible so they can be considered and we can move forward on this bill.