Congress returned to Washington the week of November 10 to complete the 113th Congress in a lame duck session. The results of the mid-term elections, in which the majority party in the U.S. Senate changed from Democratic to Republican, weighs heavily on what Congress can accomplish before the end of the year.
Of top interest to low income housing advocates is how Congress will address FY15 appropriations. The continuing resolution (CR) that is keeping the federal government open and operating at FY14 funding levels expires on December 11. Ideally, Congress will pass an omnibus appropriations bill before December 11, but it remains to be seen whether Congressional leadership will be able to secure the votes needed to do so. Although Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who will the Senate Majority Leader in the new Congress, has announced there will be no government shutdowns, several members of his party are threatening to hold up FY15 appropriations to force concessions from President Barack Obama.
The change in power in the Senate means leadership of all Senate Committees will change in January. Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) is expected to resume the chairmanship of the Senate Banking Committee, a post he held when the Republicans last were in the majority. With the retirement of Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD), the lead Democrat on the Banking Committee could be Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH).
With Senator Shelby regaining his position as Chair of the Banking Committee, Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS) will become the new Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) likely will continue to lead the Democrats on Appropriations as Ranking Member. Leadership on the Senate Finance Committee will continue to be Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Ron Wyden (D-OR); they will just exchange positions with Senator Hatch as Chair and Senator Wyden as Ranking.
The Senate Budget Committee will have the crucial role of developing a new budget resolution for FY16, and will have to deal with the return of sequestration as the Murray-Ryan budget deal that has rolled back sequestration for the last two years will expire. The most senior Republican in line to be Chair is Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL). It is unclear who the Ranking Member will be. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), the current chair, has indicated she is not interested in staying in that role.