Starting All Over Again: Your New Dance Partners in Congress

A lot is going on at the federal level right now.

  • The sequester that we never thought would happen in the fiscal year 2013 budget, has.  On the average, 5% cuts across the board from most housing and community development programs.

  • We have two fiscal year 2014 budget resolutions, one from the Senate and the other from the House.  These two statements of political principles sadly could not be more different making a resolution of their differences extremely difficult.

  • The President’s fiscal year 2013 budget will be six weeks late when it arrives in our email queue during the week of April 8th.  Leaving us less time for advocacy activities.

  • The debt ceiling fight looms ahead in May.  We can most likely expect a repeat of the confusion of last time around.

  • Tax reform is beginning to heat up and, depending on who is talking, either will happen soon or will simmer on the back burner.

  • Housing finance reform is poking its head out of the spring ground with an added boost from the Bipartisan Policy Center’s sweeping recommendations.

OK, you say, where do we go from here? Well, my friends, as Ginger Rogers sang to Fred Astaire in the 1936 movie “Swing Time”:

“Nothing’s impossible I have found

For when my chin is on the ground,

I pick myself up, dust myself off

Start all over again.”

I’ve been whistling this for days and it helps. Try it. Then do a little tap dance to cheer yourself up.

Ginger and Fred were talking about learning to dance in their song…we are going to do the same. Let’s look at our potential partners on the various key committees in Congress:


  • Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) is the Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee and a long time supporter of affordable housing and community development funding. The Senator may be petite in stature but is a giant when fighting for what’s right. She knows how to dance the appropriations polka well. She’ll be depending on Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) to carry the tune for housing as THUD (transportation, housing and urban development) sub-committee chair. Senator Pryor (D-AR) is chair of the Agriculture and Rural Development sub-committee. He is attuned to rural issues but could use some coaching from his home state on the dire straits of rural housing.

  • Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) is the Ranking Member of the Appropriations Committee. His home state of Alabama is one of the poorest states in the country and has a severe shortage of decent affordable housing.  Senator Shelby was a Democrat years ago. Let’s hope he remembers some of the steps from the old days so he can keep up with is partner Barbara. Shelby’s sub-committee chair for the THUD sub-committee is Senator Susan Collins  (R-ME). Senator Collins, from a primarily rural state, has made sure to learn dance steps beyond the Maine classic sea shanty shuffle. She can hold her own with partners of many stripes. Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) is ranking member of the Agriculture and Rural Development sub-committee and learned many of his dance steps from his predecessor Senator Kit Bond. Bond is one of the original dancing with the stars participants on rural affordable housing issues.

  • Congressman Hal Rogers (R-KY) is the powerful chair of the House Appropriations Committee. His district is the heart of Appalachia. He knows poverty when he sees it for sure. It is all around him.  Congressman Tom Latham (R-IA) is the Chair of the THUD sub-committee. After winning a bruising battle prompted by redistricting, Latham has learned much about the issues of urban housing and community development. His previous district was entirely rural, he now represents Des Moines, Iowa the state’s capital and largest city. He got some great coaching in new dance steps from the affordable housing and community development folks in Des Moines. Kudos for the coaching! Congressman Robert Aderholt (R-AL) is the chair of the Agriculture and Rural Development sub-committee. Aderholt has a very rural district and would benefit from Alabama rural housing folks getting on his dance card at the next community social.

  • Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-NY) is the Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Committee. Her district is diverse in topography, income and demographics. Starting in White Plains her district stretches to the west into the foothills of the mountains and up through the beautiful Hudson Valley.  Lowey is a strong presence and a good dancer on the chaotic dance floor of the House. She was a personal choice of the former Speaker Nancy Pelosi who taught her well. Lowey has strong ranking members on the Agriculture and Rural Development and THUD sub committees. Congressman Sam Farr (D-CA) is ranking member of the Agriculture and Rural Development sub committee. He represents the central coast of California. His district, not unlike Lowey’s in a California sort of way, is a mixture of cultures and topography. A long time fighter Farr can both dance and play an instrument while he’s on the dance floor.  Dance with him, you’ll see. Congressman Edward Pastor (D-AZ) is ranking member of the THUD sub-committee. He is a champion for the communities he represents (Phoenix and Glendale) and has been on the dance floor for long enough to be able to dance alone when he has to or join into a line dance with many.  Keep on his radar.

To learn more about each of these committees visit and Make sure you look at the many appropriations committee members to determine who from your state is representing you. Go visit them, call them. Let them know what’s important to you and your community.

To be continued……

Start all over again!

(Photo: CC BY-ND, Glyn Lowe Photoworks.)


Barbara Burnham is vice president for federal policy at Local initiatives Support Corporation (LISC).


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