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Rep. David Price proposes bill to reopen part of the federal government

David Price Election Night

Rep. David Price, D-NC, celebrates his re-election at the election night party at the Democratic Headquarters in Raleigh on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018. 

In an effort to reduce some of the strain imposed by the ongoing federal shutdown, U.S. Rep. David Price, D-N.C., has introduced a bill that would reopen the U.S. Departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development. 

With funds from 2018 expiring and no budget for 2019, a number of departments have been forced to shut down indefinitely. The shutdown has affected many citizens and businesses that rely on government services.

The bill is one of four individual appropriations that congressional Democrats plan on proposing to restore government services to the public.

Price's bill proposes $71.4 billion in discretionary funds for the DOT and HUD, $23.3 billion more than the amount requested by President Donald Trump. Price's proposal would total $1.1 billion more than the budget from the 2018 financial year.

Of these funds, $17 billion will be devoted to infrastructural projects, while the remaining $49 billion will be dedicated to fuel and aviation taxes.  

Price has expressed concerns about risks to health and safety because HUD’s Real Estate Assessment Center has temporarily stopped its inspections of assisted housing units. The shutdown has also forced the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Federal Aviation Administration training academy to close, which has suspended vehicle safety activities and reduced the aviation workforce.

Marion Mollegen McFadden, senior vice president of public policy at Enterprise Community Partners, a nonprofit organization that works to finance, build and advocate for affordable housing, stressed the impact the shutdown is having. She said she's concerned that communities across the country will remain unsure of the funding they can hope to receive through the Formula and Appropriation Process until a permanent spending bill is passed.

“With the government shutdown, they’re no closer to understanding how many of the projects that they have in their pipeline can actually be built or rehabilitated in the upcoming year,” she said.

McFadden said she was also concerned about affordable housing in North Carolina because certain projects need to apply for funding through this application.

Mitch Kokai, a senior political analyst at the John Locke Foundation, a North Carolina-based conservative think tank, said the bill is largely a political statement by congressional Democrats and can be best understood as one element of the ongoing power struggle between them and Trump.

“The dollars involved in the dispute represent no more than a rounding error within the multi-trillion-dollar federal budget," he said. "But this isn’t about the money. It’s about which political team will win the fight."

Although Kokai acknowledged that federal workers in N.C. who are living paycheck-to-paycheck have been affected by the shutdown, he also highlighted a demographic that is largely unaffected by the shutdown.

“I’m not sure that other state residents have noticed much of an impact," he said. "There’s even a substantial group, including the president’s most fervent supporters, who have voiced little sympathy for affected federal workers.”

Kokai said he isn't sure this bill will bring the government any closer to ending the shutdown.

“Until either the President or Democratic congressional leaders budge on the border wall, bills like the one Rep. Price proposed are likely to have little impact," he said.

In a press release, U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., strongly conveyed the opposite sentiment.

“These bills will stop this chaos, get many federal employees back on the job and ensure that key parts of the government are working for the American people," she said. "After we pass these four bills, the Senate should clear them, and the President should sign them into law.”


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