In early January, the historic 116th Congress was sworn into office in the midst of what became the longest government shutdown in American history. For five weeks, agencies and programs of importance to the CDFI industry were shuttered, including the CDFI Fund, Small Business Administration, and Departments of Agriculture and Housing and Urban Development, impacting the ability of CDFIs to lend and invest in the communities that need it most.
The government has reopened for three weeks as Congress and the White House continue to negotiate fiscal year (FY) 2019 funding levels for agencies whose appropriations bills are not yet completed. Once the current impasse on funding key portions of the government is resolved, Congress will immediately begin negotiations around FY 2020 appropriations, which are sure to be as contentious as those in the FY 2019 cycle. In addition to deciding the funding levels of agencies and programs, Congress must agree to raise the spending caps put in place under the 2011 Budget Control Act or risk across the board spending cuts, or sequestration, which is unpopular with lawmakers of both parties. Further complicating things is the need to raise the debt ceiling by mid-March.
Despite a challenging outlook for the FY 2020 budget and appropriations process, the 116th Congress brings opportunity to introduce CDFIs to newly elected Members of Congress and new leadership on key committees. In both the House and Senate, new leadership and members resulted in changes in the composition of committees of jurisdiction over issues impacting the CDFI industry, in particular CDFI Fund appropriations and the New Markets Tax Credit program.
Democratic control of the House of Representatives brought major changes to the House Appropriations Committee. In addition to Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) becoming the first woman to chair the House Appropriations Committee, eight new Democratic Representatives joined the Committee: Reps. Norma Torres (D-CA), Brenda Lawrence (D-MI), Cheri Bustos (D-IL), Lois Frankel (D-FL), Charlie Crist (D-FL), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ), and Ed Case (D-HI). One Republican Representative, Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX) was appointed to serve on the House Appropriations Committee.
Illinois Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL) will serve as Chair of the House Appropriations Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee (FSGG), which has jurisdiction over the CDFI Fund. Reps. Jose Serrano (D-NY), Matt Cartwright (D-PA), and Sanford Bishop (D-GA) will return to the FSGG subcommittee, along with new Appropriations Committee members Reps. Torres, Crist and Kirkpatrick. On the Republican side, Rep. Graves (R-GA) will serve as Ranking Member along with Republican colleagues Rep. Mark Amodei (R-NV), Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT), and Rep. David Joyce (R-OH), who is new to the subcommittee. Both Reps. Lowey and Quigley are strong supporters of the CDFI industry, which positions the CDFI Fund well as negotiations begin around FY 2020 spending levels.
On the Senate side, there have also been changes to leadership on the FSGG Appropriations Subcommittee. Louisiana Senator John Kennedy (R-LA) will chair the FSGG subcommittee, replacing Senator James Lankford (R-OK). The composition of the rest of the FSGG subcommittee remains largely the same, with Sens. Jerry Moran (R-KS), John Boozman (R-AR), Lankford (R-OK) and Daines )R-MT) continuing to serve, and Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) continuing to serve as Ranking Member along with his Democratic colleagues Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Sen, Chris Van Hollen (D-MD).
With the New Markets Tax Credit Program set to expire in 2019, the tax-writing House Ways and Means and Senate Finance Committees are critically important to the community development finance industry this year. Both Committees have new leadership and members. Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) will chair the Senate Finance Committee, and five new Senators will join the Committee, three Republicans and two Democrats: Sen. James Lankford (R-OK), Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT), Sen. Todd Young (R-IN), Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) and Maggie Hassan (D-N.H).
There are also changes in the House Ways and Means Committee. Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA) will Chair the committee, and 11 Democrats will join the committee: Reps. Jimmy Panetta (D-CA), Steven Horsford (D-NV), Gwen Moore (D-WI), Dan Kildee (D-MI), Brad Schneider (D-IL), Stephanie Murphy (D-FL), Don Beyer (D-VA), Jimmy Gomez (D-CA), Dwight Evans (D-PA), Brandan Boyle (D-PA) and Tom Souzzi (D-NY) along with three Republicans: Reps. Drew Ferguson (R-GA), Jodey Arrington (R-TX), and Ron Estes (R-KS).
The House Financial Services, another committee of importance to the CDFI industry, has finalized its membership for the 116th Congress. The Committee, chaired by Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), is adding 16 Democratic Members: Rep. Al Lawson (D-FL), Del. Michael F.Q. San Nicolas (D-Guam), Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA), Rep. Cindy Axne (D-IA), Rep. Sean Casten (D-IL), Rep. Ayanna S. Pressley (D-MA), Rep. Ben McAdams (D-UT), Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-VA), Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), Rep. Alma Adams (D-N.C.), Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-PA), Rep. Jesús García (D-IL), Rep. Sylvia R. Garcia (D-TX), and Rep. Dean Phillips (D-MN). Five Republicans will also join the committee: Reps. Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH), John Rose (R-TN), Bryan Steil (R-WI), Lance Gooden (R-TX), and Denver Riggleman (D-VA).
With committee leadership and membership largely finalized, the work of the 116th Congress will begin to ramp up quickly. In the coming weeks, OFN will be sharing resources and tips for ways you can advocate for CDFIs in the 116th Congress. For the latest information, visit OFN’s Policy Action Center.