Brian Schatz of Hawaii to Lead Senate Funding Panel

Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii)
“Last Congress, we delivered record federal funding to where people need it most — affordable housing, infrastructure, climate resiliency and public transit," says Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii). (MSNBC via YouTube)

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Sen. Brian Schatz will lead the panel responsible for drafting funding legislation for federal transportation programs and operations, the chamber’s leaders announced recently.

For the next two years, Schatz (D-Hawaii) will serve as chairman of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee. The senator’s appointment in the 118th Congress by the leaders of the Appropriations Committee extended his chairmanship of the subcommittee.

The senior senator from Hawaii led the panel during the previous session of Congress, commencing his chairmanship in 2021.

“Last Congress, we delivered record federal funding to where people need it most — affordable housing, infrastructure, climate resiliency and public transit. But we still have more work to do, so I look forward to continue working to bring more federal investments to communities across Hawaii,” Schatz said Feb. 15.

In addition to his role on the appropriations panel, the senator is chairman of the Indian Affairs Committee and a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, as well as the Commerce Committee on freight policy. As part of his role on the commerce panel, he holds a post on the Surface Transportation, Maritime, Freight, and Ports Subcommittee, which oversees trucking rules and regulations.

Patty Murray (D-Wash.), left, Susan Collins (R-Maine)

Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), left, and Susan Collins (R-Maine) 

Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), chairwoman and ranking member, respectively, of the Appropriations Committee, expressed optimism about Schatz’s appointment and the appointment of their colleagues to the other funding subcommittees.

“There are so many critical challenges our country faces right now, and we are glad to have this capable and committed group of senators to lead our subcommittees this Congress and work to solve problems in people’s lives through our appropriations bills,” Murray and Collins said Feb. 15. “We look forward to working closely with all of our subcommittee leaders and colleagues on the committee in the months ahead to find common ground — and deliver for the American people.”

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The Senate appropriations committee was instrumental in advancing funding for infrastructure and freight programs approved in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. The $1.2 trillion law from 2021 authorized billions of dollars for grants linked to freight, supply chain, transit and safety programs and projects.

On March 9, the White House indicated it plans to unveil funding proposals for freight and passenger transportation operations as part of its budget plan for the upcoming fiscal year. The fiscal 2024 budget request to Congress specifically will seek funds for the administration’s infrastructure agenda, which includes implementation of the bipartisan infrastructure law, climate change and the electrification of mobility corridors. The White House also has sought to advance freight and trucking workforce initiatives and safety programs designed to improve the connectivity of vehicles and products.

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The budget “will build on the historic economic progress of the past two years by continuing to invest in America and its people, continuing to lower costs for families — from child care to housing to college to health care — protecting and strengthening Social Security and Medicare, and reducing the deficit through additional reforms to ensure the wealthy and largest corporations pay their fair share,” according to an update from the White House this month.

In the GOP-led House, Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) was named chairman of the House transportation funding panel by the leadership from his caucus.

“There is much work to be done, and the new Republican majority is ready to work on securing the southern border, tackling inflation, restoring North American energy independence, providing needed oversight of the Biden administration and Democrats’ reckless and disastrous actions and much more,” Cole said last month.