Legislative action could heat up following the midterm elections, including for issues related to housing, said two government relations consultants speaking this week at the annual National Association of Affordable Housing Lenders policy conference in Washington, DC.
“If you’re talking to policymakers, it’s crunch time to get things passed,” said Bryan Blom, vice president at Porterfield, Fettig & Sears.
There’s not much outright opposition to affordable housing legislation, Blom said, but there’s competition for legislators’ focus.
Following next week’s midterm elections, Congress will pivot to the lame-duck session “for what could be a very busy four to six weeks,” said Dwight Fettig, a Porterfield partner.
Fettig estimated there’s a 75% to 80% chance Republicans will gain control of the House, although he notes that reports of heavy early voting indicate a strong turnout among Democrats.
He predicted historic turnout again this election among both Democrats and Republicans thanks to what he called “the Trump factor.”
If the Republicans win the House, Fettig said, “The size of the margin will tell us how governable that caucus is.” Kevin McCarthy, now House minority leader, is expected to become speaker if Republicans take the House, Fettig said, adding, “His job will be brutal.”
If Democrats keep control of the Senate, he noted, it would be easier for the Biden administration to have nominations confirmed. Regulatory oversight by a Republican-controlled Congress “would be more frequent and more adversarial,” he said.
Whether or not there’s change of control in the Senate, there will be some change in leadership on key committees in the next Congress, Fettig noted.
For example, Pat Toomey, R-PA, ranking member of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, is set to retire at the end of this Congress.
Rep. Tim Scott, R-SC, is expected to take his spot, either as ranking member or, if Republicans take the Senate, as chair, said Blom.
According to Fettig, Scott and current chair Sherrod Brown, D-OH, work well together and were early co-sponsors of the Neighborhood Homes Investment Act, which created a federal tax credit to spur development and rehabilitation of single-family homes in underserved rural and urban communities.
In the Committee on Finance, Mike Crapo, R-ID, now ranking member, would become chair if the Republicans take the Senate, Blom said.
“Neither party is going to end up controlling 60 seats in the Senate,” he said, “so we’ll need bipartisan support” to get legislation passed. “The election will dictate what is possible, but some things need to be done.”
The consultants expect to see must-pass legislation go through in the lame-duck session, such as the omnibus appropriations bill and the Defense Authorization Act.
Often other legislation can “catch a ride” on must-pass bills, Fettig said. He’s also eager to see whether Democrats and Republicans can get together to deal with the debt limit or if Democrats will try to do it on their own in the lame-duck session through another reconciliation bill.
Blom predicted that if Republicans win both the House and the Senate, they’ll push for smaller legislative packages during the lame-duck session, leaving some of the issues for the next Congress, when they’ll have more control. He said that because inflation is still a hot issue, Republicans will try to limit the size of spending bills.
Fettig said that any deals that get done in a lame-duck session will be decided in the Senate because the House will still be controlled by the Democrats.
Republican senators who are about to retire, he added, might have incentives to get legislation enacted before they leave.
Other Republicans might want to “clear the decks” before the next Congress so they can have a fresh start, Fettig said. For example, they won’t want to be faced with a continuing budget resolution — and a potential standoff over a government shutdown — in February or March.