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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.