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The Devastating Spending Cuts That Were Too Much For House Republicans To Swallow

By Bryce Covert  

"The Devastating Spending Cuts That Were Too Much For House Republicans To Swallow"

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ryan_boehner_tpftdOn Wednesday, the House was supposed to vote on a bill that would have set specific funding levels for transportation and housing related programs. Normally the amount such a bill could spend on programs would have been set by a budget, but because Republicans have repeatedly refused to hash out the differences between budgets proposed by the House and Senate, there is no such guiding document. House lawmakers had been instructed instead to use spending limits set by the Republican budget they passed in March, written by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), that included severe spending reductions.

But when it came time to actually pass concrete cuts, Republicans balked and the bill was withdrawn.

The House’s plan would have cut funding for housing and transportation programs by 15 percent compared to what they currently receive. What exactly did these cuts look like that Republicans in the end couldn’t stomach? Here are some of the most devastating ones.

1. Cut community development grants in half: The Community Development Block Grant program provides states and local communities with annual grants for a variety of purposes, such providing affordable housing, creating job programs, environmental clean up, and other community development needs. These grants were slated to be cut nearly in half, receiving less than $1.7 billion, which would have been a more than $1.4 billion cut. As Brian Beutler reported, such a cut “los[t] a lot of Republicans who care about their districts.”

2. Eliminate a program that funds infrastructure: The House appropriations bill would have completely eliminated Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants, which are used to invest in road, rail, transit, and port projects. The program proved incredibly popular, receiving $9 billion in applications this year despite only having $474 million to dole out. It also comes at a time when the U.S. desperately needs to invest in infrastructure, as the country’s roads, bridges, and rail lines got a mere D+ grade from the American Society of Civil Engineers. Communities would have lost over $200 million they were expecting to receive come the fall.

3. Slash spending on removing lead from homes: The House bill would have reduced the Healthy Homes & Lead Hazard Control program, which removes lead from homes and prevents children from poisonous exposure, by more than half compared to the decreased level it gets under sequestration. It would have only allocated $50 million to the program, compared to $114 million under the sequester. Half a million children have elevated levels of lead in the blood, which is linked to lower IQs and learning disabilities. Meanwhile, every dollar spent on controlling the exposure to lead returns anywhere from $17 to $221 in health and other societal benefits.

4. Underfund homelessness assistance programs: The bill would have funded Homeless Assistance Grants at $2 billion, below both President Obama’s request and the Senate’s version. This level wouldn’t be enough to fund all of the Continuum of Care grant renewals this year, which help fund shelters for the homeless, youths, and domestic violence survivors. This would mean 25,000 people would likely be left homeless.

5. Decrease spending on the Federal Aviation Administration: Congress will still remember when sequestration-related furloughs hampered air travel, leading to outrage and a scramble to action from policymakers to ease the cuts. Yet the House appropriations bill would spend $775 million less than the Senate’s version the agency, less than even sequestration levels, which could make it harder for it to keep up with increasing demand for air travel.

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