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Inside The Beltway: Housing Infrastructure In The 116th Congress

Since the new legislative session convened in January, congressional leaders and President Trump have repeatedly highlighted the importance of passing legislation to repair our nation’s crumbling infrastructure. And while there is general bipartisan agreement on the scope of the problem, there remain significant differences between Democrats and Republicans over how much money the federal government should invest and how to pay for that investment.

Several weeks ago, President Trump met with Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Schumer to discuss the parameters of an infrastructure bill. Both sides announced an agreement for a $2 trillion bill, but discussions over how to pay for it were put off for several weeks. The President agreed with Democrats that a broad infrastructure package should include surface transportation as well as water and broadband. Subsequent to the meeting, House and Senate Republicans, as well as senior White House officials, expressed doubt over being able to find the means to pay for the bill. 

Meanwhile, Democrats in the House of Representatives continue to advocate for a broad, bipartisan infrastructure bill with a variety of pay-fors that include raising the gas tax and other taxes, which is a nonstarter for most Republicans. As President Trump prepared to meet with the Democratic congressional leaders, Congresswoman Waters, Chair of the House Financial Services Committee, offered a draft legislative infrastructure proposal, the “Housing is Infrastructure Act of 2019,” focused on increased affordable housing. She also held a hearing titled, “Housing in America: Assessing the Infrastructure Needs of America’s Housing Stock.”  In her opening remarks, Chairwoman Waters emphasized that “Congress must recognize that our nation’s infrastructure extends beyond making investments in our roads, bridges, ports, and airports. It also includes our nation’s affordable housing.” To address these concerns, her legislation would provide the following investments:

  • $1 billion to fully fund the backlog of capital needs for the Section 515 and 514 rural housing stock;

  • $5 billion to support mitigation efforts that can protect communities from future disasters and reduce post-disaster federal spending;

  • $5 billion for the Housing Trust Fund to support the creation of hundreds of thousands of new units of housing that would be affordable to the lowest income households;

  • $100 million to help low-income elderly households in rural areas age in place;

  • $1 billion for the Native American Housing Block Grant Program to address substandard housing conditions on tribal lands;

  • $10 billion for a CDBG set-aside to incentivize states and cities to eliminate impact fees and responsibly streamline the process for development of affordable housing; and

  • $70 billion to fully address the public housing capital backlog.

President Trump campaigned on investing in our nation’s infrastructure, and it has remained a stated priority for his administration. But given the negative reaction of many congressional Republicans to the $2 trillion price tag for a broad-based infrastructure bill, finding consensus may prove to be a difficult, if not impossible task for Congress and the President to accomplish before the 2020 election season begins to dominate the political agenda.

Copyright © by Ballard Spahr LLP

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Timothy Jenkins Finance Attorney Ballard Spahr
Partner

Timothy Jenkins is nationally recognized for his work advising clients on all aspects of political law. He represents leading U.S. companies nationwide on federal, state, and local gift rules, lobbying registration and election law, pay-to-play provisions, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, and the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

Tim has more than 30 years' experience representing clients before Congress, presidential administration officials, and federal regulatory agencies. He serves as a lobbyist for prominent trade associations and major corporations, with an emphasis on the...

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Sherry Harper Widicus Ballard Spahr DC Senior Policy Advisor Government Relations and Public Policy, Political and Election Law
Senior Policy Advisor

Sherry Harper Widicus is a goal-oriented government affairs professional with an MBA and 20 years of experience devising and implementing federal legislative, political, and communication strategies—as both a senior congressional staff member and for government affairs clients with issues before Congress or federal agencies.

Sherry is known for her successful advocacy in Congress and the Executive Branch. Her experience includes managing client portfolios for Fortune 500 companies in the financial services and health care sectors as well as advocating for clients in the higher education sector.

Sherry served as Legislative Director for U.S. Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI) for eight years. In that role, she managed the daily work of the legislative staff, supervised the office's activity on the floor of the House, and developed and implemented the legislative agenda for Rep. Kind. She also acted as the primary legislative and political adviser on the Congressman's Education and Labor Committee assignment and facilitated his interactions with key external stakeholders.

During her time on Capitol Hill, Sherry built significant relationships with key members of Congress, including members of the New Democrat Coalition (NDC), and has broad staff contacts in the Senate and House of Representatives as well as in the House leadership. She staffed Congressman Kind in his leadership role as Democratic Chief Deputy Whip and as Vice-Chair of the NDC.

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  • Represents pharmaceutical manufacturer and distribution clients on an array of Medicare reimbursement issues, prescription drug abuse, and tax reform

  • Represents health care trade association on issues related to graduate medical education, health and education appropriations, and federal student loans and the Higher Education Act

  • Lobby on federal legislative privacy debate, including data security and restrictions on the use of Social Security numbers

  • Advocate for financial services and banking issues related to credit cards, interchange fees, mobile payments, the Dodd-Frank Act, Fair Credit Reporting Act, Government Sponsored Enterprises, and Gramm-Leach-Bliley

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