Congress Approves Short-Term Spending Bill

On Friday, September 8, Congress approved a package that included a three-month continuing resolution to avoid a government shutdown when the fiscal year ends on September 30, putting an abrupt end to what was expected to be a contentious debate throughout the month of September.

Negotiated by the President, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, the package deal was signed by the President immediately after it was approved by Congress. Among other things, the deal includes:

  • Continued government funding until Friday, December 8 with an across-the-board cut of .6791 percent
  • Extension of the debt limit until Friday, December 8
  • $15.25 billion disaster relief for Hurricane Harvey
  • Extension of the National Flood Insurance Program until Friday, December 8

 

The House also began work on an eight-bill omnibus package last week, including the FY 2018 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development bill. It is expected to finish work this week on the omnibus, which will serve as the foundation for negotiations with the Senate when considering a final spending package for the fiscal year.

Congress still needs to come to an agreement on overall spending levels for the year; neither the House nor the Senate have approved budget resolutions, but both chambers wrote appropriations bills based on extremely different spending levels. The House and the Senate both propose an increase in spending, so an agreement will need to be reached on an overall funding level and, presumably, to raise the funding cap for the fiscal year.

Update: Budget and Appropriations as August Recess Ends

As September approaches, time is running out to finalize FY 2018 spending before the beginning of the new fiscal year. Congress adjourned for August recess without making final spending decisions, leaving only 12 legislative days to put in place a bill to keep the government operational beyond the end of the fiscal year on September 30.

Making matters more complicated, the nation is set to reach its debt ceiling on September 29 and unless the ceiling is lifted or suspended, America will not have the ability to pay its current debt obligations. Additionally, the devastating Hurricane Harvey will likely require a significant investment in emergency disaster relief and could impact budget negotiations. And finally, the President has vowed to shut down the government unless funding is included to construct a border wall.

The House and the Senate have taken dramatically different approaches to the upcoming fiscal year that will need to be resolved in order to finalize spending for FY 2018. Realistically, this is unlikely to happen in 12 legislative days, so a continuing resolution (CR) is all but inevitable at this point. The question now is how long will a CR last and can a government shutdown (or greater economic crisis) be avoided?

House Update

The House is struggling to approve a budget resolution, but has been efficient in moving spending bills through committee. In June, the House Budget Committee released a draft budget resolution that provided an additional $72 billion for defense spending, while cutting non-defense programs like HUD by $5 billion. This is a violation of both the caps put in place by the Budget Control Act (BCA) and the required parity in cuts to domestic and defense spending. The proposal increased spending too much for deficit hawks, but did not increase defense spending enough for defense hawks.  After nearly two months of debate within the committee, the budget resolution was narrowly approved in July. It has not been brought to the floor yet for final consideration and it’s unclear whether it could be approved in its current state.

Meanwhile, the House Appropriations Committee drafted and approved spending bills written at the budget resolution level, making deep cuts to domestic programs. On July 17, the House Appropriations Committee voted 31-20 to advance its FY 2018 THUD bill. The bill provides $56.5 billion in funding for the bill, $1.1 billion lower than current spending levels and $8.6 billion above the President’s request for FY 2018.

Considering the President’s budget proposal to slash spending on most HUD programs and the House’s deep cuts to domestic spending, the House THUD spending bill could have been significantly worse. The bill rejects the President’s proposal to eliminate the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and HOME programs, though it does cut each by $100 million. It also rejected an attempt by the Administration to slash the Public Housing Capital Fund by 68 percent, though it does cut the program by nearly $100 million from current spending levels.

The Appropriations Committee managed to approve all 12 appropriations bills, but only four were passed on the floor. Unfortunately, Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) was not considered on the floor.

Senate Update

The Senate has not considered a budget resolution, but did pass six bills through the full committee, including THUD. The Senate wrote spending bills at the FY 2017 cap level, which is higher than FY 2018 and would trigger across-the-board sequestration cuts. Unless a budget resolution is agreed to, cuts to domestic spending are inevitable.

The Senate Appropriations Committee voted unanimously on July 27 to approve its FY 2018 THUD bill. The bill provides $60.058 billion in funding overall, $2.407 billion higher than current funding levels and $3.5 billion higher than the House THUD bill. Considering the constraints of the FY 2018 budget cap, the increased THUD allocation is a huge win and allowed appropriators to avoid making the same types of cuts seen in the House THUD bill.

Because of the higher overall spending cap, the Senate’s THUD bill provides level funding for CDBG and HOME, and increases spending for the Public Housing Capital Fund. It also provides $175 million more for Ongoing Administrative Fees.

The Senate has not considered any bills on the floor, including THUD.

September

When Congress resumes work in September, the House is expected to immediately consider an omnibus spending package to approve all remaining appropriations bills. It’s unclear whether this package of bills written at a controversial spending level can receive enough votes to be approved. Members were instructed to submit amendments to the omnibus bill during the August recess and more than 900 amendments were received by the Rules Committee.

Even if the omnibus is approved by the House, it is unlikely to be approved by the Senate, and it is likely that a CR will need to be approved to give Congress more time to work out the differences between House and Senate spending levels. It’s unclear at this point how much time Congress will give itself, though most initial CRs have been three months long, running out in early- to mid- December.

The passage of a CR could be made more complicated by the need for emergency disaster relief as a result of Hurricane Harvey; in recent years, some lawmakers have insisted that disaster relief be offset by other spending cuts and this debate could reemerge.

It could also be impacted by the debt ceiling, which is estimated the nation will reach on September 29. Recently, the nation has extended the debt ceiling without much debate or fanfare, but some members of Congress and the Administration have said that spending cuts will need to be made in order for them to agree to raising the debt ceiling in September. The last time spending cuts were required to raise the debt ceiling, the Budget Control Act and sequestration were put into place. It’s not clear yet whether the debate next month will rise to that level or if a “clean” extension of the ceiling will be allowed without any cuts.

Additionally, the President has threatened on multiple occasions to shut down the government unless funding is included in FY 2018 to begin construction on a border wall. It is unclear whether he intends to prevent a short-term CR from being put in place next month or if he is aiming for a fight later when FY 2018 spending is being finalized.

 

 

Senate Appropriations Approves Transportation, HUD Bill

In other news from the Senate yesterday, the Appropriations Committee voted unanimously to approve its FY 2018 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) bill. The bill provides $60.058 billion in funding overall, $2.407 billion higher than current funding levels and $3.5 billion higher than the House. Considering the constraints of the FY 2018 budget cap, the increased THUD allocation is a huge win and allowed appropriators to avoid making the same types of cuts seen in the House THUD bill. The House Appropriations Committee approved its bill on July 17.

NAHRO will provide a detailed analysis of the bill next week.

The future of THUD in both the House and the Senate is unclear, though it is unlikely either chamber moves its THUD bill to the floor. Yesterday, the House approved a four-bill minibus package of spending bills, dubbed the “security-bus” because of its composition of defense and security-related bills. The House will likely adjourn for August recess this afternoon without passing any additional spending bills. The Senate, shifting its focus away from health care this morning, delayed August recess by two weeks to work on nominations and the debt ceiling. It may also choose to move appropriations bills to the floor during that time, assuming Majority Leader Mitch McConnell does not adjourn the Senate earlier than expected.

Housing and Community Development Highlights

  • Rental Assistance Demonstration- cap eliminated, sunset date removed
  • Public Housing Capital Fund- $1.945 billion, $4 million higher than FY 2017
    • Jobs Plus- $15 million, level funded
  • Public Housing Operating Fund- $4.5 billion, $100 million higher than FY 2017
  • Choice Neighborhoods Initiative- $50 million, $87 less than FY 2017
  • Section 8 Housing Assistance Payment Renewals- $19.37 billion, $1.015 billion more than FY 2017
  • Administrative Fees- $1.725 billion, $75 million higher than FY 2017
    • Ongoing Administrative Fees- $1.715 billion, $75 million higher than FY 2017
    • Additional Administrative Fees- $10 million, level funded
  • Family Self-Sufficiency- $75 million, level funded
  • Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance- $11.507 billion, $691 million higher than FY 2017
  • Community Development Block Grant- $3 billion, level funded
  • HOME Investment Partnerships- $950 million, level funded
  • Homeless Assistance Grants- $2.456 billion, $73 million higher than FY 2017

 

House Appropriations Releases FY 2018 THUD Bill, Makes Numerous Small Cuts

The House Appropriations Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (T-HUD) Subcommittee released the text of its FY 2018 bill late last night. Overall, the bill makes numerous small cuts to many HUD programs, continuing a trend of disinvestment in already chronically underfunded programs. However, considering the low top-line level for non-defense programs proposed by the House Budget Committee, the cuts could have been significantly worse.

The full T-HUD bill received $56.5 billion, which is $1.1 billion less than the current fiscal year, but a whopping $8.6 billion above the President’s request. The cuts are evenly split between DOT and HUD.

Housing and Community Development Highlights

  • Public Housing Capital Fund – $1.85 billion, $92 million less than FY 2017
    • Competitive Lead-Based Paint Grants – $0, $25 million less than FY 2017
    • Jobs Plus – $15 million, level funded
  • Public Housing Operating Fund – $4.4 billion, level funded
  • Choice Neighborhoods Initiative – $20 million, $118 less than FY 2017
  • Section 8 Housing Assistance Payment Renewals – $18.71 billion, $355 million higher than FY 2017
    • Administrative Fees – $1.55 billion, $100 million less than FY 2017
  • Family Self-Sufficiency – $75 million, level funded
  • Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance – $11.082 billion, $266 million higher than FY 2017
  • Community Development Block Grant – $2.9 billion, $100 million less than FY 2017
  • HOME Investment Partnerships – $850 million, $100 million less than FY 2017
  • Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS – $356 million, level funded
  • Homeless Assistance Grants – $2.383 billion, level funded

The subcommittee will mark up the bill tonight at 7:00 pm EDT (sadly, that time is not a typo). You can watch what is likely to be a very quick voice vote here. The bill will move to full committee next week (where amendments will be considered), but it is unlikely to be brought to the floor of the House. The Senate Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Subcommittee could move on its THUD spending bill as early as next week.

Your advocacy efforts have worked to oppose the President’s devastating budget proposal, but your members of Congress need to continue hear from you about the impact that budget cuts have had in your community and the impact further cuts will have. August recess is just around the corner and is a perfect opportunity for you to voice those concerns- watch for NAHRO’s August Advocacy agenda coming soon.

Friday Night Wrap-Up: 2016 Congressional Election Results

As the dust settles in DC, the only thing that is clear about President-Elect Trump is that no one has a firm grasp on how he will run his executive branch or what his plans for the Department of Housing and Urban Development might be. I know there is a lot of information coming out of DC about what the new Administration will do or how to respond, but we believe at this point that it is simply too soon to judge.

Trump spent Wednesday meeting with his top advisers in New York City to begin the process of establishing his transition team and drafting short lists for cabinet positions. Yesterday, the President-Elect and his Vice President traveled to Washington to meet with President Obama in the White House and Congressional leaders on Capitol Hill. In keeping with Trump’s heavy emphasis on social media during the campaign, the transition team has set up a Twitter account- @TransitionTeam2017.

We are hearing a lot of rumors about who has been selected to serve on the transition team and who might be on the short-list for the HUD Secretary. We have our ear to the ground and are involved in these conversations, but at this time it’s a little premature to name anyone as the sources are likely rumors. That said, the names we are hearing are familiar to us and are similar to lists from prior Republican administrations, including individuals who have worked at HUD previously.

Weeks prior to the election, we began the process of drafting NAHRO’s transition memo for the HUD transition team. In it we outline who we are as an organization, what you as our members do and the impact you have on your communities, and our goals and priorities for the incoming administration. We’re working to finalize the memo now and expect to have it ready to send to the transition team this week. We’ll also share it with NAHRO members once it’s finalized.

Despite choosing a to send a Washington outsider who has never held elected office to the White House,  Americans largely decided to stick with their incumbent members of Congress. This is important because while there is a lot of uncertainty over how President-Elect Trump will run his executive branch and how the dynamics of having a Republican in the Oval office will change Washington, we are very familiar with the incoming 115th Congress. Our allies are still in office, most of the committees of jurisdiction are likely to remain the same, and we have a sense of the Congressional leadership and its goals. President-Elect Trump undoubtedly has major changes in store for us, but we are very knowledgeable about the incoming 115th Congress and we are ready for it.

The relative stability of the Congress means there is also likely to be stability within the committees (with the exception of Financial Services). However, Republicans are only allowed to serve two terms as Chair and two terms as Ranking Member of a committee, so that will trigger shifting between committees that will impact committee composition. Also, the number of seats a party receives on a committee is determined by the size of their majority, and since Republicans did lose a small amount of their majority, that will also impact committees.

Senate Results

The wave that Democrats were optimistic would propel them into the majority in the Senate never materialized and so far they have only managed to pick up two seats (Louisiana’s Senate race will be decided by a run-off election on December 3). As of today, the Senate is split 51-48 with a Republican majority. There will only be six new Senators taking office in January: Kamala Harris (D-Cali.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Todd Young (R-Ind.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), and whoever is elected in Louisiana to replace the retiring Sen. David Vitter (R). It is possible that additional seats will open up in the Senate if sitting members join the Trump administration.

Appropriations Committee

Only two Senators on the Appropriations Committee will be departing Congress: Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and current Ranking Member Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.). Chairman Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) will remain chair in the 115th Congress, but the Ranking Member position is open. Since Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) is likely to keep his top position on the Judiciary Committee, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) appears to be first in line for the job. Assuming she does not run for a leadership role within the Democratic Party, it is likely she would take the job. If she doesn’t, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Cali.) is likely to take over. We believe the current Transportation, Housing and Urban Development leadership of Chairwoman Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Ranking Member Jack Reed (D- R.I.) will keep their jobs, though that could change if there is shifting between committees or subcommittees.

Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs

Similarly, the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee has only two members leaving Congress: Sen. Kirk and Sen. Vitter. The current Chairman Richard Shelby (D-Ala.) is term-limited, so Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) is likely to take the top spot. We believe current Ranking Member Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) will remain in his position. I haven’t heard much about whether the leadership of the Housing , Transportation, and Community Development will change, but unless they shift to other subcommittees, Chairman Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and Ranking Member Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) I would think are likely to stick around.

House Results

Democrats were always skeptical about their ability to take the majority, but most believed they could net between 10-20 seats. So far, they’ve only managed to pick up seven seats, though four are still too close to call.  At this point, there will be 53 new members of Congress joining us here in Washington in January, which is about 12 percent of the House.

Appropriations

In total, there will be six members of the Appropriations Committee leaving Congress, split evenly between the parties. The three Republicans are: David Jolly (R-Fla.), Scott Rigell (R-Va.), and Ander Crenshaw (R-Fla.). The three departing Democrats are: Sam Farr (D-Cali.), Chaka Fattah (D-Pa., technically he left Congress over the summer), and Steve Israel (D-N.Y.). Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) made it clear months ago that he has no intention of asking for a term-limit wavier to keep his top spot on the committee, and conventional wisdom is that Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J) will take over. Ranking Member Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) is likely to stay on in her position.

Financial Services

Between retirements and election losses, there will be significant turnover on the Financial Services Committee, largely from the majority. Republicans will see eight members leave the committee: Scott Garrett (R-N.J.), Randy Neugebauer (R-Texas), Mike Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.), Robert Hurt (R-Va.), Stephen Fincher (R-Tenn.), Marlin Stutzman (R-Ind.), and Frank Guinta (R-N.H.). Democrats only have three members leaving Congress: Ruben Hinojosa (D-Texas), John Carney (D-Del.), and Patrick Murphy (D-Fla.). We believe Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) and Ranking Member Maxine Waters (D-Cali.) will remain in their positions. Hensarling’s name has appeared on the short-list for Secretary Treasury. Though he very quickly expressed strong disinterest in the position, it is possible he will have a position within the Trump administration. We also believe the Housing and Insurance Chair Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-Mo.) and Ranking Member Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) are likely to keep their positions, which is promising given the progress they were able to make last year.

Lame Duck

The current, 114th Congress returns to Washington this week following the election for the lame duck session. On Wednesday, House Republicans will meet in private to hash out their leadership candidates, which should be interesting. It appears that Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Ohio) will retain the speakership, but I’ve learned over and over again in this city to never completely rule out a surprise. House Democrats will meet on Thursday.

It’s still unclear what impact the election will have on finalizing spending for FY 2017, but we’ll keep you updated as we learn more. Regardless, our message of finalizing THUD spending that we’ve been pushing since they passed the CR in September remains unchanged.

John and I are also spending the lame duck connecting with members of Congress who will be influential in housing and community development in the 115th Congress (and, of course, wrapping up the lame duck session). Keep an eye out for emails from us as we may need your advocacy assistance.