President Barack Obama signed the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 (BBA) into law on November 2. The BBA provides relief from the Budget Control Act of 2011’s sequester spending caps for FY16 and FY17. With the increased spending levels, appropriators will now decide new funding levels for HUD and RHS programs beyond the bills passed in the House and considered in Senate earlier this year.
“The appropriators are going to have to do their job; they're going to have to come up with spending bills. But [the BBA] provides them the guidepost and the baseline with which to do that,” the President said when he signed the bill.
Now that topline federal spending levels have been increased, appropriators are negotiating the 12 individual appropriations bills, including the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies (THUD) bill. The new $33 billion made available by the BBA for nondefense discretionary (NDD) programs will be divided among the NDD subcommittees through new allocations, referred to as 302b allocations. Rather than working on separate appropriations bills, House and Senate subcommittees are conferencing together to agree on the amounts to be included in a final omnibus bill. The new 302b subcommittee allocations have yet to be made public. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) called the new 302bs “not bad.”
On November 5, Senate Democrats agreed not to block consideration of the appropriations bill for Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies (MilCon/VA). Until this point, Senate Democrats had remained unified in blocking every FY16 spending bill from Senate floor consideration because they objected to bills being written under the guidelines of the sequester spending caps. Now that the caps have been lifted, the MilCon/VA bill, revised to reflect increased spending caps, is expected to serve as the vehicle for an omnibus of the 11 other appropriations bills.
On November 2, the steering committee of the Campaign for Housing and Community Development Funding (CHCDF) sent a letter to Senate and House Appropriations Committee Chairs and Ranking Members urging increased funds from the BBA for the THUD subcommittee’s allocation. “The failure to take advantage of this opportunity to sufficiently fund HUD programs would hurt low-income seniors, people with disabilities, and families with children, who want to live in safe, stable, affordable housing and to revitalize their communities,” the letter said. CHCDF is a coalition of 70 national housing, homeless, and community development organizations working together toward the highest possible funding for such programs, which NLIHC coordinates.
The current continuing resolution, which has kept the federal government funded since October 1 at essentially FY15 levels, expires on December 11. Congress must enact new appropriations bills by that date. By raising the spending caps, the BBA allows appropriators to create spending bills that could garner sufficient support for passage. But the BBA did not settle controversies over dozens of policy riders inserted into the House and Senate appropriations bills earlier this year, such as de-funding Planned Parenthood and restricting travel to Cuba. President Obama has indicated that he will veto any appropriations bills that include such controversial policy riders, making the negotiations about policy riders a critical issue in the passage of any final omnibus appropriations bill.
On November 5, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights (LCCHR) sent a letter to Members of Congress urging them to pass a clean omnibus spending bill without ideological policy riders, including anything that would block funding for the National Housing Trust Fund (NHTF) or harm Fair Housing enforcement. LCCHR opposes any rider that would:
- eliminate private enforcement funding for the Fair Housing Initiatives Program that private nonprofit fair housing organizations use to investigate discrimination complaints;
- prevent HUD and the Department of Justice from enforcing HUD’s rule that provides a unified standard for challenging discriminatory housing policies and practices, also known as the disparate impact rule;
- prevent HUD from implementing the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Rule;
The letter states, “The Leadership Conference believes that it is inappropriate and irresponsible to attach ideological policy riders to appropriations bills. Altering laws, proposing new ones, or preventing executive orders from being implemented should be done through regular order in the authorizing committees. We were deeply troubled by the appearance of hundreds of policy riders on appropriations legislation in both the House of Representatives and Senate earlier this year. Rather than engaging in unnecessary and destructive brinksmanship over riders, we believe that Congress should focus on doing its job: working in a timely, bipartisan fashion to pass legislation to fund the government. We strongly encourage all members of Congress to abide by this principle.”
President Obama’s statement is at: https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/11/02/remarks-president-signing-budget-act-2015
The CHCDF letter is at: http://nlihc.org/sites/default/files/FY16_BBA_302bs.pdf
NLIHC’s budget chart is at: http://nlihc.org/sites/default/files/FY16HUD-USDA_Budget-Chart.pdf
NLIHC’s- action alert on HUD funding is at: http://nlihc.org/article/take-action-urge-your-legislator-prioritize-funding-housing-programs
Read the Leadership Conference’s letter at: http://civilrightsdocs.info/pdf/policy/letters/2015/15_11_5-Leadership-Conference-Rider-letter.pdf