With the April 8 expiration of the current Continuing Resolution (CR) funding the government looming and little Congressional interest in passing a seventh CR, House and Senate leadership worked towards an agreement on FY11 spending levels this week.
The White House again facilitated a negotiation session between House and Senate leadership, with Vice President Joseph Biden mediating. Congressional leaders discussed a top line figure of $33 billion in cuts below the President’s FY11 budget request for the remaining six months of FY11. While Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) denied that any agreement was reached by the two parties on that figure, he said that House and Senate appropriators were now negotiating detailed allocations for the remainder of FY11.
Policy disagreements continue to complicate the negotiations. Tea party freshman Members of the House still insist on policy riders that prevent implementation of the Affordable Care Act as well as blocking funding for other existing programs. Senate leadership is resisting including any policy mandates in the FY11 appropriations bill. House and Senate negotiators met Friday to attempt to find agreement on these policy decisions.
The impact of a $33 billion top line figure on low income households will be determined by negotiations between Representative Harold Rogers (R-KY) and Senator Daniel Inouye (D-HI), chairs of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees. While it is anticipated that the top line figure refers to cuts in non-defense domestic discretionary spending, some non-safety net mandatory programs may be included in the cuts. Depending upon how Senator Inouye and Representative Rogers allocate funding within the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (T-HUD) appropriations bill, HUD programs could see decreases in FY11 funding. Funding for the Brownfields program and the Community Development Fund earmarks have already been eliminated by the two most recent CRs.
H.R. 1, the House-passed FY11 funding bill, would make deep cuts to numerous HUD programs. These cuts would evict 14,000 households with disabilities from their Section 811 housing, and housing opportunities for elders through the Section 202 program would be cut by 70% (see Memo, 2/11). The three programs serving the majority of extremely low income (ELI) households, Tenant Based Rental Assistance, Project Based Rental Assistance and Public Housing Operating Fund, would remain funded around FY10 levels, however.
The Senate substitute amendment to H.R. 1, S. Amdt. 149, which did not gain enough votes to pass in the Senate, would also have protected ELI households in those three programs (see Memo, 3/11, 3/18). The amendment would have provided FY10 funding levels for other HUD programs as well, ensuring opportunity to build some new housing units and to protect existing tenants. The Senate proposal would have increased the Homeless Assistance Grants that allow currently homeless households to access permanent housing.
Members of the Massachusetts Congressional Delegation wrote to House and Senate leadership on March 28, urging intervention to ensure adequate FY11 funding for HUD programs that “are crucial for our most vulnerable citizens, more than half of whom are elderly, disabled or single parent families with children.” The ten Representatives and Senator John Kerry (D-MA) expressed concern over the impact that the cuts proposed in H.R. 1 would have to Massachusetts residents. The cuts to the Public Housing Capital Fund, the Section 8 Voucher program, the Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH) program and the Section 811 program would evict households with disabilities and prevent other households, including homeless households, from accessing affordable housing.
Senator Scott Brown (R-MA), the only Republican member of the Massachusetts delegation, sent a letter to Senate leadership several days later citing the need for cuts greater than proposed in S. Amdt. 149, but calling on leadership to “be mindful that many of the proposed spending reductions would disproportionately affect [programs that serve] the neediest among us, including housing and heating assistance.” Senator Brown said that the Senate should move forward “without eliminating programs that are successful, cost-effective, or critical to the livelihood of the neediest among us.”
During the continued FY11 negotiations, the House passed H.R. 1255, the Prevention of a Government Shutdown Act, which would enact H.R. 1 if the Senate fails to pass a continuing resolution by April 6. All Democratic and 15 Republican members of the House voted against the bill. The Senate is not likely to take up this bill, making its passage in the House largely a symbolic move.
Despite not having settled FY11 funding, the House is working on its FY12 budget resolution which is expected in the coming weeks. The House may introduce a two year budget resolution and attempt to move Congress to a two year appropriations cycle.
View the Massachusetts Delegation letter: http://www.nlihc.org/doc/MA-Delegation-Letter.pdf
View Senator Brown’s letter: http://www.nlihc.org/doc/Senator-Brown-Letter.pdf