Both the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate are back in session this week after a weeklong recess for the July 4 holiday. With only a few short weeks before breaking again for summer recess on August 8, lawmakers are aiming to finalize a slimmed-down reconciliation package and continue their work on fiscal year (FY) 2023 appropriations bills before the August recess begins.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) reportedly submitted on July 7 reconciliation text to the Senate parliamentarian, who advises senators on the complex rules governing the chamber’s legislative process. The text addresses the cost of prescription drugs, one of the few provisions that has the support of all 50 Senate Democrats. Meanwhile, Majority Leader Schumer and Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) continue trying to find a compromise regarding the remaining aspects of the bill. While Democrats show optimism about reaching an agreement before August recess, Senator Manchin’s office has noted that the package is still far from being finalized.
Even if a deal is reached soon, it is likely Democratic leaders will avoid announcing the agreement until the end of July. This strategy would reduce the amount of time opponents have to raise criticisms of the bill and, by drawing the process out as close to Congress’s August recess as possible, would limit the time Republicans in the Senate have to offer amendments to the bill. Under budget reconciliation, senators are allowed to offer an unlimited number of amendments to a reconciliation bill during an often hours-long process known as “vote-a-rama.”
The $150 billion allocated in the “Build Back Better Act” for targeted affordable housing investments has all but vanished from negotiations between the leaders, but these once-in-a-lifetime investments are too important to surrender. NLIHC President and CEO Diane Yentel published an op-ed in The Hill on July 6 highlighting the central role housing plays in inflation and the necessity of including affordable housing investments targeted to those most in need in any reconciliation package moving forward.
“If these members of Congress and the administration are sincere in their desire to bring down inflation, they should ensure the new bill includes robust measures to lower the cost of housing,” wrote Diane in the op-ed. “Congress must retain the essential housing investments included in the Build Back Better Act — in rental assistance, public housing, and the national Housing Trust Fund — in any final reconciliation bill.”
Time is running out to weigh-in with members of Congress on the necessity of including significant funding for income-targeted affordable housing investments in the reconciliation package, including NLIHC’s top policy priorities:
- $25 billion to expand rental assistance to more than 300,000 households. See how many vouchers your state would receive here.
- $65 billion to make critically needed repairs to public housing to preserve this valuable asset for its 2 million residents.
- $15 billion for the national Housing Trust Fund to build and preserve over 150,000 affordable, accessible homes for households with the lowest incomes. See NLIHC’s breakdown of how much each state would receive through the Housing Trust Fund here.
While the road to success is steep, this is not the first time advocates have pulled off the seemingly impossible and pushed Congress to maintain significant affordable housing investments in the reconciliation package. Email, tweet, and call your members of Congress and urge them to include these once-in-a-generation housing investments targeted to ensure people with the lowest incomes have a safe, quality, affordable, and accessible place to call home. Use NLIHC’s call-in script and advocacy toolkit to help create your own message to Congress!
Budget reconciliation – which allows the Senate to pass legislation with a simple majority of 51 votes, rather than the 60 votes usually required in the chamber – represents the best opportunity to enact the bold, large-scale investments in affordable housing needed to address the severe lack of deeply affordable rental homes. However, the annual appropriations process is also vital to ensuring continued and expanded funding for HUD’s affordable housing programs.
With the House having released and voted out of committee all 12 of its FY23 spending bills, the Senate is now expected to unveil its spending bills sometime this month. However, because appropriations leaders in the House and Senate have yet to reach an agreement on topline spending numbers, the draft bills being released will likely offer much higher funding for non-defense programs than will ultimately be enacted.
NLIHC and our partners in the Campaign for Housing and Community Development Funding (CHCDF) are leading our annual 302(b) letter to demand that Congress provide the highest possible level of funding for affordable housing, homelessness, and community development resources in FY23. Advocates should contact their members of Congress and urge them to support significant funding for NLIHC’s top priorities:
- $32.13 billion for the Tenant-Based Rental Assistance (TBRA) program to renew all existing contracts and expand housing vouchers to an additional 200,000 households.
- $5.125 billion for the Public Housing Capital Fund to preserve public housing, and $5.06 billion for the Public Housing Operating Fund.
- $3.6 billion for HUD’s Homeless Assistance Grants program to address the needs of people experiencing homelessness.
- $100 million for legal assistance to prevent evictions.
- $300 million for the competitive tribal housing program, targeted to tribes with the greatest needs.
Thank you for your advocacy!