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Senate Starts and Stops Consideration of THUD Spending Bill, Harmful Amendments Filed

The Senate started and then stopped consideration of an FY16 THUD appropriations bill during the week of November 16. With increased spending caps provided by the Bipartisan Budget Act, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) attempted to demonstrate his ability to move bills on the Senate floor by bringing the long-stalled THUD bill to a full Senate vote. However, the filing of a number of harmful amendments caused consideration of the bill to halt on Thursday, November 20.

Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) and Jack Reed (D-RI), the chair and the ranking member of the Senate THUD Appropriations Subcommittee, offered the substitute bill to replace the THUD bill that had passed the subcommittee in June (see Memo, 6/29). The substitute bill increased funding for the HOME program from $66 million to $900 million, the FY15 level, and provided an additional $100 million for Community Development Block Grants. To the disappointment of many advocates, the bill did not provide needed funding for vouchers, public housing, nor homeless assistance.

Majority Leader McConnell’s efforts to move the bill on the floor were thwarted by fellow Kentucky Senator Rand Paul (R). Senator Paul blocked consideration of the bill after Senator Collins objected to allowing a vote on his amendment to prohibit resources provided by the bill to assist refugees or asylees from 34 countries. Senator Paul said he would use any procedural move at his disposal to stop the Senate from considering the THUD bill, promising he “will not back down.”

This FY16 THUD bill is unlikely to come back up as a stand-alone measure. When Congress returns from Thanksgiving recess on November 30, the Members will focus on finalizing an omnibus spending package before the current continuing resolution expires on December 11.

The THUD bill blocked by Senator Paul is different from the THUD bill that the Senate and House THUD subcommittees are negotiating in conference committee for inclusion in the omnibus spending bill. What the next iteration of the FY16 THUD appropriations bill will include remains to be seen.

In the hours prior to the THUD substitute bill stalling on the Senate floor, numerous amendments were filed, but none were voted on. Many of them would do damage to HUD programs.

Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) offered an amendment to fund HOME at $66 million, returning it to the level of the original Senate THUD bill that the Appropriations Committee passed in June, which would effectively end the HOME program.

Senators Mike Lee (R-UT) and Tom Cotton (R-AR) each filed amendments to prohibit HUD from implementing the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule and its assessment tool.  

Senator Flake also wanted to amend the bill to require HUD to cease payments to properties deemed troubled for life-threatening deficiencies or poor physical conditions. The bill already includes a long list of remedies the HUD Secretary must take for troubled properties. Similar provisions have been in previous THUD bills and have been HUD policy since former Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) offered a similar amendment to Senator Flake’s in 2013.

Senator Flake also offered an amendment to prohibit the use of any HUD grants for the repayment of HUD loans. This amendment could seriously hurt HUD grantees who also have HUD-insured loans.

Senator Flake’s amendment to prohibit HUD assistance to households with incomes over $100,000 for any two-year period would usurp the power of the authorizers on the House Committee in Financial Services that is working on a solution to the problem of over-income households in public housing.

Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) offered an amendment to prohibit any HUD assistance to individuals who have been convicted of aggregated assault, sexual abuse, murder, or any federal state offense involving domestic violence or child abuse. The amendment is duplicative of current HUD rules barring some of these populations from assistance and would work against recent efforts by the Obama Administration to expand housing opportunities for other returning prisoners.

NLIHC FY16 priorities are at: http://nlihc.org/sites/default/files/FactSheet_FY16-Budget_2015.pdf

NLIHC budget chart are at: http://nlihc.org/sites/default/files/FY16HUD-USDA_Budget-Chart.pdf