Freedom First Society

Issue: H.R. 2577 As Amended; A bill making appropriations for the Departments of Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development, and related agencies for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2016, and for other purposes.

Result: Passed by Senate, 89 to 8, 3 not voting. GOP and Democrat selected vote.

Freedom First Society: In presenting their amendment to H.R. 2577, the Senate proponents gave no indication that they felt the Constitution constrained federal programs in any way. For example, there was no thought of undoing the federal overreach caused by the creation of the Housing and Urban Development Department during the Johnson administration.

Instead, the floor “debate” centered on the virtue of bipartisan cooperation while violating the Constitution. (See “Read more,” below.)

Note: In passing this annual Transportation and Housing and Urban Development appropriations bill for FY2017 (one of the 12 in regular order), the Senate used the House-approved bill from FY2016 as the vehicle, replacing it with its own substitute. The obsolete title was also kept throughout much of the process, making it confusing for outsiders to follow (see also comments at end of “Read more”).

We have assigned (good vote) to the Nays and (bad vote) to the Yeas. (P = voted present; ? = not voting; blank = not listed on roll call.)

Analysis: Please read the excerpts from the Congressional Record that follow. They are indicative of the collectivist mindset that dominates Congress — i.e., the attitude that the role of government, specifically the federal government, is to solve all problems (especially those created or made worse by other government policies and programs.)

How different from the vision of America’s founding fathers, who sought to empower a limited federal government with only essential authority while crafting constitutional barriers to its transformation into Big Brother!

Also please read the note at the end regarding the transformation of H.R. 2577.

Excerpts from the 5-12-16 Congressional Record

Senator Collins (R-Maine):

“The bill will also provide $39.2 billion for the Department of Housing and Urban Development to meet the housing needs of low-income, disabled, and older Americans, to shelter the homeless, and to create jobs in our communities through economic development programs….

“Our priority is to ensure that our Nation’s most vulnerable individuals and families do not lose assistance that prevents many of them from being at risk of homelessness. Therefore, the bill provides necessary funding to keep pace with the rising cost of housing to these families who might otherwise become homeless….

“In fact, rental assistance alone consumes more than half of our subcommittee’s allocation and is a shocking 84 percent of HUD’s budget. That makes funding other important needs difficult. Nevertheless, Senator Reed and I share a passion about reducing and ending homelessness. Therefore, we have included $2.33 billion for homeless assistance grants, and we have also managed to make critical investments to reduce homelessness among our veterans and our youth.

“To further help homeless young people, we provided $40 million in grants that are targeting this underserved population. Additionally, to better support youth who are exiting the Foster Care Program, the system includes $20 million for family unification vouchers and makes changes to this program to improve its effectiveness. I know many Members share our concern that young people who age out of the Foster Care Program should have–must have–somewhere safe to go….

“While this bill helps families in need, it also recognizes the hardships local communities are facing. Boosting local economies is critical to job creation and helping families obtain financial security. Thus, our bill supports local development efforts by providing $3 billion through the Community Development Block Grant Program and $950 million through the HOME Program.”

Senator Jack Read (D-Rhode Island):

“Mr. President, I rise to join Senator Collins in support of the fiscal year 2017 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations bill. I want to join her in commending Chairman Cochran and Vice Chairwoman Mikulski for their great work, but I particularly want to commend Chairman Collins for her extraordinary work, her thoughtfulness, and her diligence. All those aspects are evidenced in this bill.

“She has, once again, developed a balanced and thoughtful bill that includes priorities for Members on both sides of the aisle. This bill allows for our Nation to continue moving forward by investing in critical transportation and housing initiatives, and, suffice it to say, without her leadership, we would not be here today with a bill that not only merits our attention, but also merits our support.

“This bill includes policies and funding that will grow our economy, improve the safety of our national transportation system, create jobs, and preserve affordable housing for our most vulnerable citizens.”

Note: The amended H.R. 2577 as voted on in Senate Vote 82 included not only the Senate’s version of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2017 (S. 2844) but also a Division B, which included the Senate’s version of the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2017 (S. 2806). It also included FY2016 supplemental appropriations for Zika response (Title V of Division B), which the Senate added as an amendment.

On May 26, the House replaced this Senate version with its own substitute amendment, which dropped completely the original purpose of H.R. 2577 (Transportation and HUD appropriations). Politicians constantly talk about transparency, but transparency for whom?

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