In what’s becoming a pattern during the first 100 days of the Trump administration, this was another tumultuous couple of weeks in Washington. the White House has released its 2017 budget, hearings on the confirmation of Judge Gorsuch have kicked off and Capitol Hill has been focused almost exclusively on the passage of the American Health Care Act (AHCA) - the replacement for Obamacare.
First, the budget. Every President’s budget is a messaging document to highlight the administration’s priorities and policy imperatives. It is not final legislation and will not be passed into law. That being said, the Trump administration’s 2017 budget is clear in its priorities. It calls for $54 billion in cuts from across the government to fund significant increases in the departments of Defense, Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs. Especially relevant to the multifamily industry, the President’s HUD’s budget includes 13.2 percent or $6.2 billion in cuts to programs important to the multifamily industry such as Community Development Block Grants, Home, Choice Neighborhoods, etc. Similarly, the EPA would lose 31.4 percent of its budget or $2.6 billion with programs such as Energy Star being eliminated. Ultimately, the budget process is extensive and Congress has an equal role to play. However, the degree of the cuts in the administration’s proposal signal that many agencies can expect real budget reductions.
In what would be the top news during any other week, hearings began on Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch’s nomination to the nation’s highest bench. The process has so far been riven by partisanship with the GOP expressing strong support and Democrats almost completely unified in opposition. Unlike cabinet appointees, Supreme Court justices must have 60 votes to overcome filibuster and secure confirmation. However, there is a parliamentary procedure, coined the “nuclear option,” that would allow him to be confirmed with only a simple majority. This would break with years of precedent and open the door to an even more divisive political atmosphere.
After years of campaigning on the promise of repealing Obamacare, Republicans are now in a position to follow through on the passage of replacement legislation. The timing of a vote on the AHCA has yet to be determined. At the time Given that AHCA is President Trump’s top legislative priority and also key to tax reform, its failure would pose long-term problems for the GOP’s overall agenda.