The signs are off the lawns, checkbooks have closed (for now anyway), the president and Congress are back to full-time work, and the losing candidates are licking their wounds (and in some cases, opening new ones).
So what about us? What’s ahead for affordable housing and community development?
As I see it, the election that was supposed to be a referendum on Obama became a lesson in coalition-building. An incredibly well-run campaign and ground game in key states produced enough votes to bring Obama across the finish line with a surprisingly strong electoral vote and a clear popular vote majority.
With hard work and luck the Democrats kept their majority in the Senate and picked up two seats originally thought lost to Republicans.
With the addition of Independent Angus King from Maine to the Democratic Caucus along with incumbent Independent Bernie Sanders from neighboring Vermont, , Democrats now hold a 55 member majority. However, that’s not enough to avoid the threat of a filibuster from the other side of the aisle. Absent reforms to the Senate process, expect continued haggling and slow-going in the Senate. Women now make up 20 percent of the Senate, 18 Democrats and 2 Republicans!
The House hasn’t changed all that much, even though the Democrats were able to pick up a few seats. Tea Party Republicans are fewer and women and people of color are now the majority in the House. Continuing the trend from the 2010 election, where 89 new faces graced the House, more than 80 new members will join the 2012 edition. Republicans still hold the majority in the House with an often unruly caucus, so expect continuing fireworks. It will be up to leadership to manage movement and mayhem in the House. Stay tuned.
But for a few committee leadership slots in the Senate and House, it is too early to predict a new lineup of chairs and ranking members in the 113th Congress. The likeliest combination for the Financial Services Committee in the House, which handles many housing issues, will be conservative Jeb Hensarling from Texas as the chair and liberal Maxine Waters from California as the top Democrat. Republican Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama appears to have the inside track to become the ranking member of the all-important Senate Appropriations Committee. There could be lots of changes for affordable housing and community development in the 113th, so keep an eye out for new leadership announcements in the coming weeks.
Speaking of the next few weeks, it will be a wild ride on both sides of the Hill. The fiscal cliff, sequestration and the beginnings of tax reform are all on the table. My hope is that there will be a deal cut by the end of the year, but my best guess is we’ll get temporary solutions to be chewed through in the 113th Congress. I hope, for the sake of the people and programs we care about, that Congress acts more quickly on a positive solution. I am not optimistic.
We’ve got a lot of work to do. Get ready. Know your congressperson, know your senators. Keep your ear to the ground. You’ll be hearing from me as the new line-up of people and issues unfolds.
(Photo by Glyn Lowe Photoworks, CC BY-ND.)