The National Low Income Housing Coalition continues to monitor the ins and outs of the major implications of the complications facing lawmakers in the 113th Congress. They focus specifically on the implications of decisions for federal housing and other programs that provide assistance to low income people and notify advocates of need for action.
The 112th Congress ended its term approving the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012. The 113th Congress and the Administration now face the major fiscal issues the 112th Congress did not resolve and that need immediate attention.
In the next three months, lawmakers must address:
the debt ceiling in February,
alternatives to sequestration, now scheduled to begin March 1, and
finalize FY13 appropriations before the expiration of the continuing resolution (CR) on March 27.
Major tax reform is also on the agenda for the new Congress.
The release of the President’s FY14 budget, statutorily required by the first Monday in February of each year, could now be delayed. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) initiated this delay in part because Congress had not yet addressed these broad financial issues, including FY13 funding. Final FY13 funding levels are necessary for OMB to establish the President’s budget request to Congress, and H.R. 8 changes the spending cap for FY14.
The federal government has already reached the congressionally authorized limit on borrowing, known as the “debt ceiling.” Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner is now employing a variety of techniques to stretch the time before the United States defaults on its debt until February, when Congress must act. The debt ceiling problem is shaping up to be a repeat of the disastrous debt ceiling debate in the summer of 2011 that led to the Budget Control Act of 2011 and the sequester. Republicans are threatening to demand spending cuts equal to the amount that the debt ceiling is raised.
H.R. 8 also delayed action on sequestration for two months, preventing across-the-board cuts to all discretionary programs, including most federal housing programs. These cuts will automatically go into effect unless Congress finds a solution or votes to delay it further. Given that H.R. 8 raised taxes on some upper income households, some Republicans are now demanding spending cuts only without the addition of any other revenues. Unless changed, the sequester is set to make cuts that will achieve a $1.2 trillion reduction in the deficit over a 10-year period.
The third major budget business for the Congress is to finish its FY13 appropriations bills. H.R. 8 establishes a new FY13 spending cap that may force appropriators to revise the subcommittee bills that had already been informally negotiated in the 112th Congress. It is not yet clear whether appropriators will try to move an omnibus bill in the 113th Congress or pass another CR to keep the government funded through the remaining six months of the year.
Before the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations allocated funds for each of the 12 appropriations subcommittees, advocates urged committee members to significantly increase the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies (THUD) FY13 allocation, which was cut disproportionately in FY12. The House and Senate appropriations subcommittees on THUD and Agriculture, Rural Development, and Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies then crafted FY13 bills according to the respective allocations, known as the 302(b) allocations.
The start of the 112th Congress was as tumultuous as its conclusion. Lawmakers began the 112th Congress in 2011 already behind on their FY11 budget and appropriations work. Members of Congress could not agree on funding levels until mid-April 2011, after passing a series of continuing resolutions to keep the government funded seven months into the fiscal year. H.R. 1473, the Department of Defense and Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2011, appropriated FY11 funds for the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and Related Agencies (THUD) programs and the Agriculture, Rural Development, and Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies programs.