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House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s plan to address the debt limit and return funding to 2022 levels would cut the Department of Transportation’s funding by around 20%, leading to significantly decreased ability to carry out many of the programs, safety regulations and field operations that have become more and more essential following the large influx of infrastructure funds.

That’s according to Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, who appeared before the House Appropriations Committee on Thursday to discuss the 2024 budget and the proposals from both Speaker McCarthy and President Biden.

“We’re a safety agency and everything we do is prioritized first and foremost around safety,” Buttigieg said. “That also means that when our activities are cut, or suspended or impacted by some of these issues, that affects our ability to meet our safety mission,” he said in response to questions about how the proposed cuts would impact safety. “If we think about the aviation side of that, for example, we’d be looking at a hiring freeze affecting our whole operations and facilities workforce that includes controllers, it includes safety inspectors.”

He pointed to the 2013 budget sequestration, which lowered federal spending by approximately $1.1 trillion, or a 5% reduction to the DOT and resulted in furloughs.

Cuts currently being proposed would decrease the capacity of the Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to conduct field inspections, or roughly 2000 fewer days that would be dedicated to inspecting hazardous liquid and natural gas pipeline facilities as well as a diminished ability to respond to certain events like the East Palestine, Ohio train derailment. He also said the cuts would result in a hiring freeze at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

“There’s no part of our transportation system or our safety mission that I don’t think would be touched in some way by these levels of cuts,” Buttigieg said.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-C.T.,  highlighted that such a budget would force a 22% or a $540 million cut to Amtrak funding as well cuts to other programs such as the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity and the Federal Aviation Administration.

“While the FAA would not allow any unsafe conditions to arise, regardless of budget constraints, what would certainly happen is an effect on the cancellations and delays that sometimes happen when you don’t have adequate staffing or resources to serve them,” Buttigieg said.

Speaking on RAISE, Buttigieg said the DOT receives “dramatically more demand than we can meet and so we know that communities have a need, it would be a terrible loss, I think, to not have the opportunity to help meet that need.”

President Biden’s budget request would set aside $3.1 billion for Amtrak to fund base operating capital and debt service requirements, in addition to the advanced appropriations.

“Without them, I have to think that that would have an impact both in terms of delaying Amtrak’s progress and dealing with their maintenance backlog and issues that folks whether they are traveling intercity or whether Amtrak is part of their daily commute as it famously was for the president for many years, would see that feel that and face the cost and the burden of that,” Buttigieg said.

The McCarthy plan also includes a plan to claw back the $70 billion remaining in pandemic related aid, a move wildly unpopular among local issuers and together, a bill that has no chance of moving forward in the Senate, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. said on Thursday.

But there’s also the threat of a continuing resolution, which would cause delays in Air Traffic Control hiring, delays in modernizing essential infrastructure that supports the national aviation systems such as NOTAM, which caused delays earlier this year, and “would cause a lot of concern and would frustrate us in our mission,” Buttigieg said.

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