Update From Washington, D.C.
Congress Lays the Groundwork for FY 22 Budget; High Court Rejects Challenge to Affordable Care Act; and HUD Releases California Emergency Housing Vouchers
Congress Lays the Groundwork for FY 22 Budget; High Court Rejects Challenge to Affordable Care Act
House lawmakers returned to Capitol Hill on Monday, marking the first time that both chambers of Congress have been in session at the same time since May 20. For its part, the House approved a number of bills on the suspension calendar (which requires a two-thirds majority for passage), including legislation (HR 2008) that would reauthorize an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) program that provides grants for mitigating nonpoint source water pollution. In addition, lawmakers advanced a bill (HR 539) that would prevent the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) from clawing back assistance it mistakenly awards to disaster victims. A separate measure (HR 2016) would require FEMA to convene a working group to study, streamline, and report on how the government conducts initial damage assessments following emergencies and disasters.
Aside from the largely noncontroversial suspension bills, the House on June 14 approved a budget resolution (H Res 467) that would officially set the top-line spending level for fiscal year 2022 at just over $1.5 trillion. This figure is roughly $15 billion below what President Biden called for in his budget request, which included $769.6 billion for nondefense discretionary spending and $752.9 billion for defense programs. This action will allow appropriators to begin drafting their respective spending bills. In fact, the chairs of the 12 subcommittees have already received their draft allocations, and consideration is expected to begin on June 24. Pursuant to a recent press release, full committee action will conclude on July 16.
On a related matter, Budget Committee Chairman John Yarmuth (D-KY) plans to move forward with budget reconciliation instructions later this year, which would allow senators to pass President Biden’s two economic legislative proposals – the American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan – with a simple majority.
Supreme Court Rejects GOP Challenge to Affordable Care Act
In a 7-2 decision, the Supreme Court on June 17 rejected a lawsuit (California v. Texas) that sought to strike down the Affordable Care Act (ACA). For their part, opponents of the ACA – spearheaded by a number of Republican-led states – argued that a 2017 tax code change invalidated the law. Specifically, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (PL 115-97) eliminated the penalty for noncompliance with the individual mandate to acquire health insurance. Therefore, opponents of the law sought to declare the ACA unconstitutional.
While a federal appeals court agreed with the challenge, the Supreme Court ultimately determined that the states and individual plaintiffs behind the case lacked legal standing to challenge the law. In the end, four of the court’s conservative justices joined with the three-member liberal wing to reject the lawsuit.
HUD Releases California Emergency Housing Vouchers
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Marcia Fudge recently announced the first tranche of awards pursuant to the American Rescue Plan Act’s (ARPA) Emergency Housing Voucher (EHV) program. The EHV program assists individuals and families who are, among other things, experiencing or are at risk homelessness, or are fleeing domestic or related violence.
Specifically, HUD will provide $1.1 billion – 70,000 vouchers – to 626 public housing authorities (PHAs) administering the Housing Choice Voucher Program. It should be noted that PHAs in California are set to receive 16,797 emergency housing vouch