As the 110th CongresS gets down to business, there is no question that the NAHB—and for that matter, every other lobbying organization in Washington—faces a dramatically different political climate on Capitol Hill in the wake of the 2006 midterm elections.
For the first time in over a decade, Democrats have gained control of both the House and Senate, and it's no surprise that the new leadership has different priorities in mind than its Republican predecessors. These new priorities will undoubtedly affect the NAHB's advocacy agenda in a number of ways. If a few doors have closed with the loss of certain allies, certainly some new windows of opportunity have opened as well, and we are looking forward to what lies ahead.
First and foremost, it's important to keep in mind that housing is neither a Democratic nor a Republican issue. It is an American issue, with critical ramifications for millions of families nationwide. The NAHB retains an official nonpartisan status in Washington for precisely this reason. As was the case in the 2006 midterms, our political action committee, known as BUILD-PAC, has steadfastly supported housing-friendly candidates on both sides of the aisle. As a result, we are well positioned to work with the new Congress to accomplish our legislative goals in the coming year.
A BRIGHT OUTLOOK That said, several priority issues for the nation's home builders could receive a slightly warmer reception going forward as a result of the new committee leadership in Congress. For example, in the critical debate regarding oversight reform for the housing-related government sponsored enterprises (GSEs), Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, today's leaders of the key committees of jurisdiction were among yesterday's supporters of a version of GSE legislation that was passed by the House with NAHB support last year. This bodes well for efforts to safeguard our nation's world-class housing finance system.
Meanwhile, on the politically charged issue of immigration reform, there is reason to believe that the new leadership of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees will be more inclined to support comprehensive legislation that includes a guest-worker provision that is so critical for our industry. And on another positive note, the new leaders of the House and Senate tax-writing committees are strong supporters of affordable housing incentives in the federal tax code, including the Low Income Housing Tax Credit.
The picture may also be somewhat brighter in terms of government funding for important housing programs. With Democratic control of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, we can expect to see a renewed commitment to spending on domestic programs, and several NAHB priorities could benefit, including housing programs such as Community Development Block Grants, Section 8, and HOME. (Even so, with today's record-high deficits, the Democrats' new spending priorities may not materialize.)
HURDLES STILL STANDING Of course, the NAHB will also face plenty of challenges with regard to our advocacy goals in the coming year, as is always the case. It will be an uphill battle to build bipartisan support for other items that remain at the top of our agenda, including necessary reforms to environmental regulations, protections for private property rights, and repeal of the estate tax, to name just a few.
The good news is that we are ready, we are able, and we are well acquainted with the task at hand. And as we “head to the Hill” in this session of Congress, we are as powerful an advocate as ever for our 235,000 members and their businesses and customers nationwide.
Brian C. Catalde, President, NAHB Washington, D.C.
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