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House panel approves cuts to transportation grants

Published on NewsOK Modified: May 21, 2014 at 2:11 pm •  Published: May 21, 2014

WASHINGTON (AP) — GOP-drafted legislation that would impose cuts on Amtrak repairs, transit projects, and a transportation grant program championed by President Barack Obama sailed through a key House panel on Wednesday.

The $52 billion measure maintains funding for community development block grants popular with local governments and fully funds an upgrade to the Federal Aviation Administration's NextGen air traffic control system. But it cuts from Obama's request for housing subsidies for the poor and could lengthen waiting lists of poor people seeking housing vouchers. The Appropriations Committee approved the measure by a nearly party-line 28-21 vote after Democrats complained of cuts to programs they favor.

The House panel's vote came as its Senate counterpart was preparing to launch bills funding agriculture and food programs, the Veterans Administration, and military base construction projects.

At issue in both House and Senate are the 12 annual spending bills allocating the about $1.1 trillion portion of the approximately $3.7 trillion federal budget that is approved by Congress each year. The process has been derailed in recent years and top lawmakers are trying to get it back on track.

But difficulties remain. The 2015 House transportation and housing measure is cut $1.8 billion below current levels, prompting Democrats to protest cuts to programs like so-called TIGER grants, which date to Obama's 2009 economic stimulus bill and were funded at $600 million this year. The program funds a variety of transportation projects and Obama wants to nearly double its budget, but the GOP bill offers the administration just $100 million.

And the Democratic-led Senate panel appears likely to upset Republicans by resorting to budget gimmicks to squeeze additional money into domestic programs that have been shortchanged by an arcane dispute between the White House budget office and the Congressional Budget Office

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