115th Congress Begins with Flurry of Legislation

Congress Passed “Midnight Relief Act”, Could Repeal Finalized HUD Rules

Senators and representatives of the 115th Congress were sworn in last week, officially kicking off the new Congressional term.

The National Low Income Housing Coalition has provided this update.

Along with control of the White House, Republicans have a majority of seats in the House (241-194) and Senate (52-48), giving the party a significant opportunity to enact its top policy priorities, including:

  • tax reform,
  • repeal of the Affordable Care Act, and
  • immigration reform.

The new Congressional session began with a flurry of legislative activity.

As one of its first official acts, the House last week passed the “Midnight Rule Relief Act” by a vote of 238 to 184, largely along party lines.

NJ’s delegation split 6-6 on this vote with all voting along party lines except for Congressman Josh Gottheimer voting in favor. He was one of only four Democrats to vote in favor.

If enacted, the bill would amend the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to allow Congress to repeal any administrative rule finalized in the last 60 legislative days of the Obama administration en masse through a joint resolution of disapproval, which does not require the President’s signature.

This authority could allow Congress to repeal several recently finalized HUD rules issued after June 13, 2016, including:

  • impacting economic mobility within the Continuum of Care program,
  • expanding equal access based on gender identity to federal housing programs administered by the Office of Community Planning and Development,
  • protecting victims of harassment in housing,
  • implementing housing protections for survivors of domestic violence, and
  • instituting smoke-free public housing, among others.

Republican lawmakers introduced a number of bills in the first few days of the new Congressional session that could impact federal funding for HUD affordable housing programs.

Several lawmakers, including Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) and Representative Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), introduced multiple resolutions calling for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would require Congress to pass a balanced budget. Under these proposals, federal spending could exceed the amount of revenue collected by the U.S. government for the same fiscal year.

But a balanced budget amendment (BBA) could limit the government’s ability to stimulate the economy during a time of crisis and lead to severe cuts in vital affordable housing programs that would harshly affect seniors, children, people with disabilities, and veterans.

A BBA also raises several legal complications that could shift budgetary decision-making away from Congress to federal judges.

NLIHC Legislative Overview

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