Congress Returns to Washington for a Short September, CR Introduced

Congress returned to Washington last week after a long August recess, getting to work immediately to avoid a government shutdown when the fiscal year ends on September 30. However, with another month-long recess just days away, it is unlikely Congress will accomplish much else before adjourning until the after the election, leaving many NAHRO priorities in limbo.

Appropriations Chairman Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) unveiled the House’s continuing resolution (CR) early last week, outlining a plan to continue current funding levels of $1.12 trillion for discretionary spending through December 11, 2014, including funding for housing and community development programs (HCD). The “clean” bill does not contain many policy riders and keeps spending changes, known as anomalies, to a minimum, which could impact HCD programs. The CR also includes an additional $88 million in funding to help fight Ebola in West Africa and extends the controversial Export-Import Bank.

The House originally scheduled a vote on the CR late last week, but the vote was postponed to give Congress time to consider the President’s request for Syria and ISIL. The House is expected to consider the CR as early as Tuesday, giving the Senate the rest of the week to approve the measure. However, the inclusion of the Export-Import bank, the length of the CR, and any last-minute addition of of Syria provisions within the CR could impact that timeline.

The introduction of the CR marks a final admission that the appropriations process for FY 2015, at least for the moment, has broken down. The House managed to approve seven of 12 appropriations bills before adjourning for the August recess, but the Senate failed to approve any after a “minibus” of spending bills, including Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD), was pulled from the Senate floor in June. This comes as a disappointment after the optimism of the Murray-Ryan budget deal that set overall spending levels for FY 2015.

The expiration of the CR on December 11 forces Congress to make spending decisions during the lame duck session after the election, rather than punting FY 2015 funding to the new Congress when it takes office in January. It is likely, though, that the lame duck Congress will simply extend the CR until the start of the 114th Congress, ultimately delaying spending decisions.

The shortened September session also means that a number of NAHRO priorities will not be dealt with until the lame duck, if at all during the 113th Congress.

The Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) fixed rate remains expired pending the passage of either a temporary reauthorization through a tax extenders package or the passage of the “Improving the Low Income Housing Tax Credit Rate Act” (HR 4717 and S 1442) that would make the credits permanent. The Senate included the LIHTC in a larger tax extenders package that failed to pass the Senate earlier this year, and the House did not include it in a series of smaller bills making expired tax credits permanent. An issue as complicated as tax reform is unlikely to be resolved in September, but there remains an outside possibility that tax extenders could come up during the lame duck session. Visit the ACTION Campaign’s web site for more information on the efforts to preserve the LIHTC and visit NAHRO’s Advocacy Action Center to send a pre-written letter to your legislators in support of the tax credit.

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