Congressional Recess Voucher Update

Congress Leaves DC Without
Spending Bills For President

Congressional Recess Voucher UpdateThe Center for Budget and Policy Priorities Ehren Dohler has prepared this very helpful update on the implications that the status of Congressional spending bills has on potential voucher funding.

Despite early optimism that Congress might pass the FY2015 spending bills in “regular order” in light of the Murray-Ryan budget deal, Congress left town for the August recess without having sent a single spending bill to the President.

While the House passed its versions of 7 of the 12 spending bills, including the Transportation-HUD (T-HUD) bill, partisan divisions over policy riders and the process for considering amendments has prevented the Senate from approving any bills, despite the Appropriations Committee having reported out the THUD bill and 7 others.

These divisions will complicate efforts in September 2014 to move a stopgap funding measure before the fiscal year ends on September 30, 2014, as well as to complete final budget bills.

Moreover, a “clean” congressional resolution (CR) may require adjustments in funding levels relative to FY 2014. Budget caps agreed to in the Murray-Ryan budget agreement, an anticipated decline in Federal Housing Administration (FHA) receipts, and an increase in funding for veterans’ medical care that Congress has already enacted.

Nevertheless, Congress will not want to shut down the government shortly before the election, so passage of a CR by September 30 is likely and it will probably last until well past the November elections and into December. Such a short-term CR should have little or no effect on the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) housing and community development programs.

More consequential will be the final decisions on FY 2015 funding that Congress will be forced to make when it returns after the elections. A lame-duck Congress could either enact a long-term CR into next year — leaving the final decisions to the new Congress that will be entering in January — or assemble an omnibus package of fiscal 2015 spending bills to approve before Congress adjourns in December.

An omnibus with final 2015 funding levels would likely have higher funding levels for key HUD programs, such as the renewal of Housing Choice Voucher subsidies. But the House and Senate T-HUD bills are far apart on many HUD programs (and in their allocations overall), so there is also some risk inherent in a final bill compared with a long-term CR. How Congress chooses to apportion funding among the bills, as well as within each bill, will be essential to limiting the harmful impacts of what will be a very tight budget at the end of the day.