Election Impacts on Housing Committees and Legislation, Congress Heads into Lame Duck Session
On Election Day, November 6, 2018, the Democrats gained control of the U.S. House of Representatives and the Republicans grew their majority in the U.S. Senate in the midterm elections. Although a few races for Congress remain undecided as of today with recounts and runoffs occurring in several states.
In New Jersey, U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) was re-elected to a 6-year term in the Senate. And in the Congress, U.S. Representatives:
While the split Congress will most likely lead to legislative gridlock at the federal level, the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC), of which Monarch Housing is a member, pledges to continue to work with the many new and existing congressional housing champions to push for affordable homes for the lowest income people.
Committee assignments and new leadership roles have yet to be determined, but current ranking member Maxine Waters (D-CA) has confirmed that she will be taking over as chair of the House Financial Services Committee.
Representative Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO) is expected to chair the Housing and Insurance subcommittee.
Representative Waters has long been a champion of affordable housing and is expected to use her position to focus on pressing housing challenges across the nation and oversight of federal agencies.
On the appropriations side, following the retirement of Representative Rodney Frelinghuysen, (R-NJ-11), Representative Nita Lowey (D-NY) will likely lead the full House Appropriations committee, with Representative David Price (D-NC) serving as chair of the Transportation and Housing and Urban Development (THUD) subcommittee.
One of the first tasks of the Appropriations Committee will be to negotiate a bipartisan, bicameral agreement to lift the spending caps on domestic and defense programs for the FY20 spending bills.
In the Senate, some significant changes to committee leadership could occur if Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) takes over as chair of the Finance Committee for Orrin Hatch (R-UT), who retires this year.
Unlike Senator Hatch who co-authored legislation with Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) to expand and reform the Low Income Housing Tax Credit to better serve households with the lowest incomes, Senator Grassley has been a critic of the tax credit program.
During the “lame duck” session – after the elections and before the new Congress members take their seats in January – the House and Senate will have a number of legislative items to address, including the FY 2019 spending bill, a disaster recovery package for communities impacted by Hurricanes Florence and Michael, tax extenders, and other must-pass legislation.
While the current Continuing Resolution will keep the government open to December 7, it is unclear whether Congress will be able to enact final spending bills before the end of the year. Some experts worry that President Trump will use the approaching immigrant caravan from Central America to threaten a government shutdown in exchange for funding to construct a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
A disaster recovery package, on the other hand, is very likely to be passed once FEMA and HUD have finished their assessment of unmet housing and infrastructure needs, which could be completed before the end of the year; members of the North Carolina and Florida delegation are eager to deliver much-needed resources to their states.
The lame duck session also presents an opportunity to enact part or all of the Cantwell-Hatch Affordable Housing Tax Credit Improvement Act on a tax extenders package, with a fix to the 4% floor on the list of top priorities for congressional champions.
Congress only has a few weeks to tackle its packed legislative agenda before time runs out.