Hurd on the Hill: Wading through Government Funding
Many of us are learning to adapt to our new normal during this pandemic, including Congress. Unfortunately, the appropriations process doesn’t get talked about nearly enough because it’s not an exciting topic, however, it’s one of the main reasons constituents put us in office. I flew into DC last week and since then have been heads down ensuring we are doing our best with your tax dollars.
The U.S. Constitution gives the legislative branch of government the “power of the purse,” which is the ability to choose how the federal government raises and spends money. Every year, this process begins in the Appropriations Committee of the House of Representatives, where Congress meets to approve funding for government programs. The Committee consists of 12 subcommittees each covering specific government agencies. For instance, Military Construction and the Department of Veterans Affairs are overseen by the Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, which I serve on.
In a multi-month process, subcommittees draft bills that go to the full committee and then are voted on by the entire House of Representatives. The same process happens in the Senate. If there are any differences between bills in the House and Senate, those differences are resolved before going to the President for consideration.
Serving on the House Appropriations Committee allows me to add a South and West Texas perspective to debates on how the federal government uses taxpayer dollars. In fact, many of the projects that my office has been able to deliver for the district have been because of my collaboration with the Appropriations Committee.
For example, for over a decade at Laughlin Air Force Base in Del Rio, more than one inch of rain caused the Base’s flight line to flood and prevented our pilots from obtaining the flying time necessary to complete their training. To fix this problem, I collaborated with the Appropriations Committee, which funds our military and ensures our troops have the resources needed to combat 21st Century threats. We were then able to work with base leadership to help secure federal funding.
We’ve also been able to articulate to the Committee the unique challenges faced by the Permian Basin region in their efforts to make the United States energy independent. Due to the growing energy sector in West Texas, there has been heightened traffic on the Permian Basin roads and a significant increase in car accidents every month. By bringing these issues to the Committee, we were able to secure $50 million in federal support to repair and expand roads throughout West Texas to try to stop this terrible trend and help keep people safe.
After finding out that only four percent of eligible Texas families were receiving Low Income Housing Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) funds through the Department of Housing and Urban Development, my team flagged this issue to the Appropriations Committee. Last year through funds appropriated by the Committee, Texans received nearly $34 million more in funding, ensuring that 32,000 more households could take advantage of this program. This year through the CARES Act, appropriators were able to secure another $94 million in LIHEAP funds.
But serving on this committee isn’t just about appropriating federal dollars – it’s about finding ways to reduce the size and scope of the federal government through more efficient use of taxpayer dollars. From relentless oversight of the federal bureaucracy and writing bills such as the Modernizing Government Technology Act (MGT), we have helped save taxpayers over $5 billion that would have otherwise been spent on outdated technology systems.
Members of the House Appropriations Committee are responsible for reining in government spending while ensuring programs critical to our nation are adequately funded. The ability of the Committee to affect every individual, family and small business is substantial, and that’s why I’m proud to serve as your member of congress for the 23rd Congressional District of Texas. I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle in the coming weeks and months to make sure that our government is responsibly funded through the next fiscal year as we continue to navigate through a global pandemic.