Friday, August 2, 2013

Dysfunction in appropriations: THUD bills halt before August recess

by Ethan Handelman, National Housing Conference

The news on housing appropriations is decidedly a mixed bag. The House failed to pass its Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) appropriations bill as a result of strong stakeholder reactions to the damagingly low funding levels. The Senate bill, which had significantly higher funding, failed to achieve 60 votes for cloture yesterday, which means the bill will not move forward. So, going into the August recess, a continuing resolution for THUD looks much more likely this year.

Many of the political signs from the THUD appropriations debate point to growing opposition to the unrealistic funding levels proposed by the House. House Republican leadership failed to line up enough votes for passage and so pulled the bill from consideration. President Obama threatened to veto the House THUD bill. Strong stakeholder opposition supported these outcomes, notably via the Campaign for Housing and Community Development Funding, of which NHC is a member (see this letter to the Senate as an example). However, once the House bill failed, pressure intensified on Senate Republicans to prevent a Senate THUD bill from coming to the floor. The result is no bill passed in either House of Congress and little prospect for movement in September.

In a startling break with House leadership, Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers pointed to the failure of the THUD bill as a sign that sequestration must come to an end. He called for a “comprehensive compromise that repeals sequestration, takes the nation off this lurching path from fiscal crisis to fiscal crisis, reduces our deficits and debt, and provides a realistic topline discretionary spending level to fund the government in a responsible – and attainable – way.” With another debt ceiling battle looming and partisan lines forming on the budget, such a comprehensive compromise seems a distant hope.

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